John Daniel believes he heard his daughter's last words. In late August of 1998, Daniel awoke in the middle of the night in his St. Cloud apartment to the sound of his oldest daughter, 15-year-old Roseanna, calling out his name. He had not seen Roseanna for about two weeks and went downstairs to let her in. But she was nowhere to be found.
More than two years later, seated at a wobbly table in his Spartan St. Cloud apartment, the 51-year-old janitor and single father says he believes that the voice he heard that night was his daughter screaming for help--from more than 60 miles away in St. Paul. "I believe that when she hollered my name that was her last words as the guy tightened the telephone cord around her neck," Daniel says.
Despite Daniel's certainty in relating the circumstances surrounding his daughter's death, the fate of Roseanna Forcum and her then-21-year-old friend April Geyer is officially unknown. In August of 1998, the girls disappeared from their homes in the St. Cloud area. For a year and a half, nothing was known of their fate. Daniel clung to a hope that Roseanna had run away to California, as some of her friends said she'd talked about doing. "I just kind of accepted the fact that when Rosie could get free, or she got tired of being there, she would call me, and then I could make arrangements to send her money and have her flown home," says Daniel, his younger daughter Jamie, age 14, seated next to him.
Then in late January of this year, Daniel got a call from Detective Mark Kempe of the St. Paul Police Department, who said he had information about the missing girls. Shortly thereafter Daniel, along with April Geyer's mother, Gloria Homstad, went to the St. Cloud police headquarters to meet with Kempe. The detective said an informant had come forward and told police that a friend of his had strangled the girls to death (hence Daniel's mental image of the phone cord around Roseanna's neck) and that he'd helped to bury them in Wadena County, near the Leaf River. Kempe told Daniel and Homstad that the police, with the guidance of the informant, had made an initial, unsuccessful attempt to recover the bodies two weeks earlier. The search was called off because of snow and ice.
Nine months later Roseanna Forcum and April Geyer have yet to be found--alive or dead. Unlike high-profile cases such as last year's murder of Katie Poirier, or the 1989 abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, the disappearance of Geyer and Forcum has slipped beneath the media radar screen. Nothing has been written about the case in local newspapers or broadcast on television.
Part of the reason for the dearth of attention could be that the apparent victims in this case don't fit the description for angelic martyrs. Homstad says that before disappearing her daughter had been reeling from her boyfriend's drowning a year earlier. "She was angry," Homstad says. "She couldn't hold down a job. She was depressed. She sought her comfort through alcohol and crank [methamphetamine]." Geyer left behind a now-eight-year-old son, whom Homstad is raising.
Roseanna Forcum, meanwhile, had recently completed a summer program for juvenile offenders because she was repeatedly delinquent from school. "She more or less comes from a single-parent family, because the mother didn't really want anything to do with her," says Daniel. "I had to fill in for mom also. That's kinda hard to do."
Jane Kirtley, the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, says that more than the class or virtue of the victims, the likely reason for the lack of media attention is simply that the cops haven't sought any. "To a great extent media coverage of crimes, solved and unsolved, is driven by law enforcement's public-relations spin on it," Kirtley says. "If they publicize a case, then the media is more likely to follow it and bird-dog it."
The cops are not anxious to discuss the disappearance of Geyer and Forcum. Detective Kempe was on vacation last week and unavailable for comment. According to Michael Jordan, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department, law enforcement has done everything possible to recover the bodies. "Between ourselves, the [state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension], and the sheriff in [Wadena] County, we have had cadaver dogs there, there's been three or four searches, we dug up so much ground that the [Department of Natural Resources] is angry with us because we diverted a stream there, and we're getting ready to go back in a week or so for another search," says Jordan. "It may be that there's no one there, that the informant is not telling us the truth."
Because the investigation is ongoing, the St. Paul Police Department will not give out any additional information about the case. Other law enforcement officers are equally tight-lipped about the investigation. Don Enger, a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who has worked on the case, says, "There's nothing I can comment on." Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr confirms that the police have made several attempts to recover the bodies, but refers other questions to the St. Paul PD. "It's not an easy area to excavate by any means," Carr says, noting that the area surrounding the supposed gravesite is frequently flooded.