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Family of missing St. George man Steven Koecher waits and hopes

BOUNTIFUL — There he stays, frozen in black and white, smiling from the side of a milk carton the family keeps on a shelf in the dining room.

Underneath the banner "Missing Adult," there are basic facts about Steven Koecher. Height: 5 feet, 11 inches. Weight: 180 pounds. Fair complexion. Blond hair.

It's been two months since their son went missing and the worst part for Rolf and Deanne Koecher, hands down, is the not-knowing.

They've checked morgues, jails and shelters. When the sole charge on his credit card since his disappearance went through an Internet site, they thought it would reveal a "secret life." They say even if the outcome had revealed a new side of their son, at least they would have known.

"We don't know whether to hope or grieve," Rolf Koecher said.

"So we do both," Deanne added.

Steven Koecher, 30, was last seen leaving his 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier in an "upscale" community for the 55-and-older set in Henderson, Nev., on Dec. 13. He was caught on a security camera set up at the home of one of the neighborhood residents. His parents, who typically talk to him about once a week, said they had talked to him the Thursday before and had no idea anything was wrong until the following Thursday, when a parking enforcement officer called to ask if they wanted to come get his car.

A few days later, Deanne Koecher's cousin asked if she wanted him to talk to a friend in the dairy business to see if they could get Steven Koecher's face on a milk carton. She was told the cartons wouldn't be out until Jan. 5. She was certain her son would be home by then.

The time since has been marked by frustration. In his car, his parents found numerous job applications and gifts bought on Dec. 12. For the family Christmas gift exchange Steven Koecher had drawn the name of his older brother, who has a newborn baby. Rolf Koecher pulled a Winnie the Pooh bib from a Kmart bag, followed by frosted sugar cookies, explaining that the bib was probably for the baby, the cookies for everyone else.

"We've considered every possibility," he said. "But each possibility has a contradiction. Is it plausible that someone is walking down the street and then suddenly they've vanished? All clues are consistent with that, but that's not possible."

There have been moments when it seems the waiting game might be over, like the clue that will unravel the current mystery will surface.

The family ate at a Las Vegas-area IHOP for four nights after they were told someone matching Steven Koecher's description had eaten at the restaurant for three weeks straight. When a worker said the diner had been shorter than Rolf Koecher and that he wrapped his seat in Saran wrap before eating with plastic gloves on, they knew it wasn't their son.

Rolf Koecher said the sole charge on Steven Koecher's credit card came from the Web site godaddy.com, but his activities there were linked to companies the family knew of in the Bountiful area that Steven had advertised with.

There was no indication that Steven was unhappy. Having relocated to St. George last spring, he was active in his LDS singles ward, had signed up to volunteer in the Big Brother program and was researching his family history in the area. His parents knew he was frustrated by a lack of steady employment, but things were looking up. He had secured part-time work doing various jobs for a home service company and had been told by his LDS bishop that they'd find him a job by the first of the year. No one has been able to determine what took him to Nevada.

The Henderson, Nev., and St. George police departments have taken the lead on the case, conducting a search in early January that enlisted the use of helicopters, ATVs and search dogs. Door-to-door canvassing has been conducted in numerous areas and the Henderson police even made a YouTube video, incorporating a photo of Steven Koecher and information on his case.

In it, they report that "there is no sign of foul play," which police say still is the case. Though officials from both St. George and Henderson said the investigation is still open and ongoing, they have few leads. Anyone with information is asked to call Henderson Police Crimes Against Persons at 702-267-4750 or St. George police at 435-627-4300. The video on Steven Koecher can be found at www.youtube.com/user/HendersonPolice

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com