Twenty-eight-year-old Julie Weflen was a woman working in a man’s field. She was one of the few female power operators for the Bonneville Power Administration in Spokane, Washington. Almost everyone did a double-take when they saw the petite and attractive brunette working with power equipment.
Julie’s male coworkers often teased her, but it did not bother her because she knew the “guy talk” was all in good nature. Julie was a great worker. She had the men’s respect, and they had her back. The men felt guilty that they were not there for Julie when she needed them the most.
On September 16, 1987, a transformer at Spokane’s Springhill substation was registering low nitrogen levels. Julie said she would check it out. Her supervisor, Owen Berrio, told her it was nothing urgent, but diligent Julie said it was no bother and left to fix the problem. For thirty-three years, Owen has wished he would have then gone with her.
Julie left for the plant at approximately 2:00 p.m. and signed in at the Springhill substation at 2:30 p.m. She is believed to have completed her work around 3:30 p.m.
By nightfall, however, she had not returned, nor had she contacted anyone. Two colleagues went to the station to check on her, thinking the transformer’s problem may have been greater than thought.
When Julie’s coworkers arrived at Springhill, they found the nitrogen levels had been restored to normal. They also found Julie’s truck but no sign of her.
Thirty-three years later, Julie Weflen is still missing.
When BPA officials arrived at the plant, they came upon an ominous sight. The driver-side door and back hatch to Julie’s truck were open, and her personal items were strewn on the ground. These items included her hard hat, toolbox, sunglasses, and a bottle of water.
The police were called and found telltale signs of a struggle. There were drag marks in the gravel from the truck to where a fresh tire pattern. The tire tracks did not match those of Julie’s truck.
After concluding their investigation of the scene, police believed two people had abducted Julie.
As the Springhill substation was not on Julie’s usual route, her going to the plant had been a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Investigators believe Julie’s apparent abduction was a crime of opportunity. However, they do not dismiss the possibility that someone was stalking her.
Julie grew up in Portland, Oregon, and had been married to Mike Weflen for four years. The couple resided in Deer Park, 22 miles north of Spokane. By all accounts, the pair had a great relationship.
Mike was ruled out as a suspect in Julie’s disappearance as he was painting a house fifty miles away from Spokane at the time. Julie’s ex-husband was also investigated and cleared of any involvement.
Thousands of missing person’s flyers of Julie were distributed nationwide. Her disappearance received extensive national coverage, including being profiled on “America’s Most Wanted,” “Good Morning America,” and “West 57th”.
The publicity, however, failed to produce any solid leads.
Some investigators believe Julie’s abduction may be related to the disappearances of two other area women.
On March 29, 1986, one-and-a-half years before Julie’s disappearance, 30-year-old special education teacher Deborah Swanson disappeared from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 34 miles east of Spokane, Washington.
The circumstances of Deborah’s disappearance are somewhat similar to Julie’s. Her car was found locked and abandoned along an isolated trail. Her purse was found inside her car. Police believe Deborah was kidnapped while jogging along the trail.
Deborah also knew a man who lived near the Spokane substation from which Julie was abducted. The man refused to answer any questions when police attempted to ask him about the women’s disappearances. He is also believed to have mailed a threatening letter to Mike Weflen a few months after Julie’s disappearance.
A group member told me she recalled reading that this man knew both Deborah and Julie through the Spokane Mountaineering Club.
For many years this man, whom authorities have not named, has been considered a person of interest in Julie’s disappearance. He remains a person of interest in Deborah’s disappearance, but investigators have recently implied that he has been cleared of any involvement in Julie’s case.
The disappearance of another Coeur d’Alene woman is thought to be related to Julie Weflen and Deborah Swanson’s disappearances.
On May 16, 1986, seven weeks after Deborah’s disappearance and 16 months before Julie vanished, 20-year-old Sally Stone visited her physical therapist to treat an injured knee. After failing to show up for various appointments, she was reported missing.
Sally was an exotic dancer who had recently moved to Coeur d’Alene. All of her clothing and suitcases were found undisturbed in her apartment, although her purse was missing. Three days of newspapers had accumulated on her front porch, and a sizable insurance check lay unopened in her mailbox.
Sally, like Julie and Deborah, remains missing.
Three young women disappeared from a 35-mile radius within 14 months of one another. Nothing concretely links Deborah Swanson, Sally Stone, and Julie Weflen’s disappearances, but many investigators believe the cases are connected. Authorities have no solid suspects in any of the three disappearances.
No connection has been found between the three women.
Police have ruled out two infamous serial killers of the pacific northwest as suspects in Julie’s disappearance;
Gary Ridgway, also known as “Green River Killer,” murdered at least 49 women from 1982-98, and Robert Yates, the “Spokane Killer,” who confessed in 2000 to murdering 13 Spokane women and five other Washington women from 1975-98.
In a 2007 article in the Spokesman-Review, the Spokane Sheriff’s Department said they had received a tip regarding a person of interest in Julie’s disappearance.
A department spokesman said the man, now deceased, was interviewed and failed a polygraph test.
Authorities said Julie’s locker at the Springhill substation, from where she had disappeared, had been cleaned out after her disappearance and that nothing pertinent to her presumed abduction was found.
In 2011, 24 years after Julie’s disappearance, however, employees at the Bell substation discovered that her locker there was still padlocked shut.
The items retrieved from the Bell locker were put into a storage container for investigators to search. Police have not released any information relating to the contents, and it is unlikely they revealed anything substantive to her disappearance.
Though he is now remarried and has children, Mike Weflen continues searching for answers to Julie’s disappearance.
With his current wife’s support, he keeps in contact with investigators and continues to push for publicity of Julie’s case.
Julie’s friends and family raised $80,000 as a reward for information leading to her whereabouts or remains.
The reward is still offered, as is a separate $25,000 reward offered by the Bonneville Power Administration.
Julie Ann Weflen has been missing since September 16, 1987. At the time of her disappearance, she was 28-years-old, 5’2″ tall, and weighed 100 lbs. She had brown hair, brown eyes, and both of her ears were pierced. Julie also had a scar on her back and a metal rod inserted in her spine. She enjoyed horseback riding.
Julie Weflen would today be 61-years-old. If you believe you have information relating to her disappearance, please contact the Spokane County, Washington, Sheriff’s Office at 509-477-4760.
Deborah Swanson and Sally Stone were both last seen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 1986. Deborah disappeared on March 29; Sally on May 16.
At the time of her disappearance Deborah Jean Swanson was 30-years-old, 5’4″ inches tall, and weighed 130 lbs. She had blonde hair, green eyes, and both her ears were pierced. She worked as a special education teacher and would today be 66-years-old.
Sally Anne Stone was 21-years-old when she disappeared. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’1″ tall and weighed 115 lbs. She had brown hair, hazel eyes, and a 5-6″ scar on her abdomen, possibly resulting from a Cesarean section. She had a tattoo on her right shoulder. It was of a parrot standing on a branch in front of a half-moon. Under the parrot is a ribbon with the word “Teko’s.” She also had another tattoo on her back.
Sally’s right knee was injured at the time of her disappearance. She worked as an exotic dancer under the stage name “Satania.” Sally Stone would today be 56-years-old.
Authorities have not found any proof that Deborah Swanson and Sally Stone’s disappearances are related to each other or the disappearance of Julie Weflen. Still, they also have not ruled out the possibility.
If you believe you have information regarding Deborah Swanson or Sally Stone’s disappearances, please contact the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Police Department 208-769-2320.
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• Charley Project
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• Seattle Post Intelligencer
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• Washington State Missing Persons
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