Rockford, Illinois News

The Veronica Blumhorst Case, Part 8: Ostensible shoppers

Editor’s note: The following is the eighth installment in a series about the disappearance of 21-year-old Veronica Blumhorst, who vanished Sept. 20, 1990, after finishing her shift at a Mendota, Illinois, grocery store. 

MENDOTA – While seemingly incriminating statements made by the boyfriend of Veronica Blumhorst have garnered significant attention over the last three decades, the actions of others on the nights she vanished may be as noteworthy.

Police say a co-worker was unsure if a former security guard at an area McDonalds was inside Dempsey’s SuperValu during Veronica’s last shift but that he may have been. She said he often came in between 9 and 11 p.m., and aside from buying the occasional pack of gum or renting a video, most of his time was spent talking to female employees, including Veronica. And while he was not known to have crossed the line, one worker said the man would “look at the girls like he was undressing them, or that he can see through their clothes.”

Before Veronica went missing, the loitering man would visit Dempsey’s two or three times a week.

“He would ask for newspapers when he came in and would look for anything in the papers about Veronica,” Sharon Vandiver told police in 1990.

But the frequent inquiries eventually stopped, she added, and the man would only occasionally ask about Veronica as the case grew colder. The man was later interviewed by police and told to stay out of the store.

Another person questioned was an 18-year-old man who stopped at SuperValu on Sept. 19 for a few items. Veronica was his cashier.

“Veronica scanned my purchases, I paid her and she said, ‘Have a nice night,'” he told The Times.

He further claimed that police told him surveillance footage shows him purchasing a six-pack of soda, two pizzas and renting two videos at 11:49 p.m. While the man said he did purchase the items from Veronica, according to he former owner of Dempsey’s, the exchange could not have been recorded because there were no security cameras inside or outside the store.

According to the police report the, before paying for his items, the teen encountered SuperValu employee Jason Stephenitch, also 18, and that at around 11 p.m., overheard him tell Veronica he’d be back to pick her up. The man denies that claim.

“That’s absolutely not true,” he said. “I am guessing they fabricated that into the report because I never said that. There was nobody else in the store besides two employees and me when I checked out. I don’t even know who that is.”

Stephenitch admitted to talking to Veronica but denies telling her he would he return for her. Both men passed polygraphs and were later cleared.

What still remains a mystery–besides what happened to Veronica–is the identity of a man who left Dempsey’s at around 11:39 p.m. According to a source, the ostensible shopper, who’s not mentioned in police reports, was in the store for approximately 30 minutes but did not make a purchase. And while he hasn’t been named, he may have been an off-duty police officer.

Vandiver and Veronica Blumhorst were the last to leave the store, police say. After closing Dempsey’s just after 1 a.m., they briefly warmed up their vehicles then pulled away. Veronica drove her blue 1989 Chevrolet Corsica north out of the parking lot onto Meriden Street and went east. She made it to her home at 1204 Monroe St. and parked in the garage. Where she went from there is anybody’s guess.

Those close to the case say Veronica likely left with someone she knew as there was no sign of a struggle near her car. Her purse, work smock and the video she rented during her shift were missing; she took no extra clothes. These things suggest that had she decided to leave, even “get out of here,” as she once told a co-worker, Veronica did not intend on being gone for long. She was also sick with mononucleosis and had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon. An extended trip was unlikely.

So, what happened to Veronica Blumhorst? Was she the victim of a violent domestic dispute? Did she cross paths with a serial killer who happened upon a sleepy Midwestern town that by all accounts rolls up its sidewalks at dusk? Did someone figure out her schedule and her route home then snatch her from the alley behind her house as her family slept? Whomever is responsible had the skills to make someone disappear–for 29 years and counting.

This article was originally published Jan. 21, 2020, in The Rock River Times. The FBI has since taken over the investigation into the disappearance of Veronica Blumhorst.

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