09.23.11

Vanished From Her College Campus

Nearly four months ago, college junior Lauren Spierer disappeared into thin air after a night of partying. Her parents tell Evie Salomon how they picture her abductor—if he exists at all.

In Bloomington, Ind., the face of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer is everywhere you turn: storefront windows, campus buildings, local restaurants, the front pages of the local newspapers.

But Spierer herself has not been seen since the early-morning hours of June 3, when the 20-year-old fashion-design student vanished after a Friday night out with friends. Originally from Scarsdale, N.Y., Spierer had just finished her sophomore year and was in the midst of summer courses when she went missing. In the nearly four months since then, her parents have only grown more haunted by the specter of her abductor.

“I think about this person all the time,” her mother, Charlene Spierer, told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “I don’t have a visual; I just wonder what this person’s doing with himself all day every day … All I’m thinking about is my family and this person.”

“What’s this person doing?” she continues, seeming to follow every move of the man in her mind’s eye. “Is he going to work? Is he getting his Starbucks? What’s he doing and how is he doing it?”

At this point, little is known about what might have happened to Spierer, including whether she was abducted at all. The nightmare waiting game Charlene and her husband, Robert, now find themselves in began on a night that remains vague at best.

Here’s what is known and supported by video surveillance: At around 1:46 a.m. Spierer entered a local bar down the street from her apartment and about 45 minutes later, left the bar and entered her Smallwood Plaza Apartments building with 21-year-old friend Corey Rossman. Spierer reportedly met Rossman at the Indianapolis 500 race just five days earlier.

At the upscale apartment complex, Rossman was involved in an altercation in which he was punched in the face, his attorney told a local news station. While the nature of the fight has yet to be disclosed by his attorney or the police, Fox News 59 reported that Rossman was assaulted by friends of Spierer’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Jesse Wolff, who later filed the missing person report.

Bloomington attorney Carl Salzmann is currently representing Rossman and has issued several statements about the altercation from the evening. He claims his client suffered memory loss due to the blow. “When he woke up the next morning, his jaw was considerably sore. Bruises on his face.  His clock got cleaned,” Salzmann said in June.

Salzmann also claimed that after Rossman was hit, Spierer helped him walk back to his apartment through an alleyway, but Spierer’s parents doubt this. “Would you be able to carry someone through the alley if you were 4’11’’ and weighed 90 pounds? No way,” Robert Spierer said. “Lauren wasn’t very strong.

Even more conflicting reports surfaced in July when the Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., quoted a source who said Spierer appeared incapacitated while at her apartment building, and unable to stand upright without the assistance of a male companion.

Police reportedly acknowledge rumors that Spierer was drinking heavily the night of June 3 and may have even overdosed on cocaine. She suffers from a rare heart condition, Long QT Syndrome, and as her father points out, “Taking alcohol with Long QT could be a dangerous mix.”

And what of Jesse Wolff, Spierer’s boyfriend of two years. whose friends allegedly attacked Corey Rossman? By Charlene and Robert’s account, Wolff had a healthy relationship with their daughter, and both parents are supporting him.

“He spent many nights at our house and Lauren spent many nights at his house. They were very close,” Robert Spierer said.

“He is still close to us, and I feel bad that he’s suffering,” Charlene Spierer added.

What happened after the surveillance tape caught Spierer leaving the bar comes down to limited anecdotal information put forward by those involved in the case, though police did find Spierer’s phone left at the bar, as well as her keys and purse in the alleyway.

The last person who claims to have seen Spierer is another person of interest, 21-year-old Jay Rosenbaum, who is represented by James Voyles, an Indianapolis lawyer most famous for representing boxing champion Mike Tyson.  Rosenbaum reportedly has ties to Spierer’s family. According to the New York Post, Lauren’s grandparents lived just yards from Rosenbaum’s grandparents on the same Rockland County, N.Y., street for 20 years.

Rosenbaum told police that at 4:30 a.m., Spierer said she wanted to go home and despite claims that he tried to persuade her to stay, she refused and left.

Even so, sources close to the case don’t believe these contentions.

“Who’s going to walk that route without keys or shoes?” said IU Hillel Center Rabbi Sue Silberberg, who has worked closely with the Spierer family. “No girl goes anywhere without her phone, especially alone.”

There is nothing to prove that Spierer was high or drunk that night, but there is proof to support that she was hanging out with a fast crowd. Rossman has a record of partying that has lead to infractions in the past. The night he entered Spierer’s Smallwood apartment complex, he was violating a no-trespass order, which states that he is indefinitely banned from the building.

And despite Spierer’s disappearance, several persons of interest have been spotted at football tailgates and around campus drinking and partying. Robert Spierer questioned how people involved in the case could so easily reengage themselves in normal life.

“I think about this person all the time,” her mother, Charlene Spierer, says of Lauren's abductor.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, in the pouring rain, 3,000 members of the IU community flooded a vast field from all corners of the campus, dressed in the search’s designated color of blue to acknowledge, for the first time as a community, that Lauren Spierer has still not been found. The “Shine 4 Lauren” concert, a mix of music, video montages, and PSAs from Spierer’s family, called attention to the lack of information and the inconsistent testimony that has dogged the police investigation.

“Light, such an important symbol, so appropriate for Lauren, whose entrance into a room could truly light up the entire space,” said Rabbi Stephen Klein of the Spierer’s Scarsdale synagogue.

But little light has thus far illuminated what happened to Lauren Spierer. All of the persons of interest in her disappearance are currently enrolled for the fall semester at IU. And nearly four months later, Robert and Charlene are still desperately searching for information, even offering a $100,000 reward.

“I feel like a broken record, but somebody’s responsible for Lauren’s disappearance and where she is,” said Charlene. “It’s very simple.”