Calif. Cops Take Fresh Look at Teen's 1986 Disappearance

Susan Bender's mom has long suspected a family acquaintance
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2021 11:10 AM CDT
Calif. Cops Take Fresh Look at Teen's 1986 Disappearance
At right is a photo of a teenage Susan Bender. At left is an age-progression image showing what she might look like today.   (Modesto Police Department)

California police are looking for the public's help in wrapping up the 35-year-old disappearance of a teenage girl. Susan Robin Bender was 15 when a friend saw her get into a green van at a Greyhound bus station in Modesto on the afternoon of April 25, 1986. Susan claimed to be on her way to visit friends in Carmel, and Sandie Silveria asked that her friend let her know when she arrived safely. But "I never heard from her again," Silveria tells CBS News. Months later, Susan's mother would be the last known person to see Susan alive. The teen stopped at home for a five-hour period in August 1986 before vanishing again, per the Modesto Bee. More than three decades on, police have reopened the case and hope new technologies will reveal what happened.

Detective Josh Grant says a review of old case files showed some "avenues of opportunity" to explore. While some believe Wesley Shermantine Jr. and Loren Herzog, serial killers dubbed "the speed freak killers," may be linked to the disappearance, Susan's mother, Patricia Chupco, has long suspected a family acquaintance. Silveria claims Susan's belongings, including her diary, were found in that person's home. Grant notes police "believe there may be individuals (previously unidentified) who may have pertinent information surrounding Susan's disappearance." Police have released an age-progression photo showing what Susan might look like today. However, the Bee previously reported that police had information indicating she was murdered. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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