HENDERSON, Nev. – Nearly six years after 30-year-old St. George resident Steven Koecher mysteriously disappeared from an area of Henderson, Nevada, never to be heard from again by his family and friends, a Las Vegas search and rescue team is renewing the search for him this weekend.
Early Saturday morning, about 40 volunteers will commence a forensic search in the canyons and mountains near the Sun City Anthem area of Henderson. Their aim is to begin carefully combing a 25-square-mile area.
“We’re not going to cover it all tomorrow,” David Cummings, of Red Rock Search and Rescue, said. “When you do a forensic search, it’s very slow and methodical.”
Red Rock Search and Rescue is a nonprofit organization made up entirely of volunteers, according to the organization’s website. The team’s approximately 200 volunteers are professionally trained and provide their services to the public at no charge, operating solely on donations.
Cummings said Red Rock specializes in cold cases.
While there is no new evidence in the case that has spurred this renewed search, Cummings said his team has a different approach than has been used in previous searches for Koecher, and he hopes his team can bring answers to the Koecher family once and for all about what happened to their brother and son.
“We don’t really have any leads on this case per se,” Cummings said. “We’re just looking at it a little differently.”
Cummings said his team is operating on the belief that Koecher traveled from St. George to the Las Vegas area to do harm to himself, and they are treating their efforts as a search for someone who committed suicide, which involves a different mindset and different probabilities as to where he would have gone and what he would have done.
Previous searches for Koecher probed only some of the desert area near where he disappeared, Cummings said, but not a lot of it. The Red Rock team is going to begin working deep into the canyons and into some mountaintop areas.
A challenge in a forensic search is they will have to distinguish animal bones from human remains, Cummings said. The amount of time that has passed since Koecher’s disappearance will also pose an added challenge.
If DNA evidence is found, the process will still be a long one, as the evidence will have to be sent to a university in Texas for testing, which will take months.
Cummings said the Red Rock team has been in contact with Koecher’s family as they’ve prepared to renew the search for him.
“They’re pleased to have us involved,” Cummings said, “and, hopefully, we can find something tomorrow.”
Koecher disappeared in December 2009. The last known day he was seen, footage of him was captured on the surveillance camera of a Henderson resident in the neighborhood where he disappeared.
For an unknown reason, Koecher had driven from St. George to Henderson, parked his car in the Sun City Anthem neighborhood, walked down a street and was never seen or heard from again.
A Facebook page kept by Koecher’s family and friends lists a Q&A post about his disappearance, answering questions they have been most frequently asked since he vanished. According to the post, it is not known why Steven Koecher was in that neighborhood, and nothing in the investigation thus far has revealed any clues as to why he traveled to Nevada before his disappearance.
“He had no known connection to the neighborhood where his car was found,” the post reads.
A post published Friday on the page expressed a hope that the Red Rock team will have good weather Saturday as they commence their search.
Since Koecher’s disappearance, many searches have been conducted, and many tips – including information from psychics – have led to dead ends.
Koecher’s father, Rolf Koecher, a newspaper editor in northern Utah at the time of his son’s disappearance, worked tirelessly in his efforts to search for Steven Koecher, following leads and endeavoring to keep his son’s story in the public eye. Rolf Koecher died from a sudden illness just over a year after his son disappeared.
Cummings said family and friends deserve to have closure and to know what really happened to Steven Koecher. He said he hopes his team’s efforts can bring them that closure.
“They deserve an answer,” he said.
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