- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - By the Friday afternoon of Little 500 weekend this year, alcohol-fueled festivities had been underway for the better part of a week.

Kilroy’s was selling “VIP wristbands” for $125, allowing entrance to its three Bloomington bars without paying cover charges and without waiting in lines. All week long.

Students could get “Tanked at Swood” and receive gray tank tops from Smallwood Plaza.

The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center for Jewish students promoted a Sunday brunch on social media: “Fill up on carbs after a long week(end) of drinking at the Hillel Hangover Brunch!”

It appeared as though the collective Indiana University community had forgotten all about Lauren Spierer, missing four years now.

Until news about another missing female student broke. Expressions saturated with Little 5 spirit turned into horror and disbelief: History appeared to be repeating itself.

People sent out concerns via Twitter.

“Please no, not again.”

“Saddened and worried. Another female student at Bloomington IN is missing.”

“And now another girl is missing. Its (sic) such a scary world we live in. Please everyone be safe & stay with friends.”

Hannah Wilson and Lauren Spierer shared the same social-media space, crammed into 140 characters. And possibly the same fate.


Lauren Spierer vanished into the night four years ago. The 20-year-old apparel merchandising major and Hillel member had just finished her sophomore year.

Highly intoxicated, barefoot and without her phone and purse, Spierer reportedly walked alone toward her Smallwood Plaza apartment early on June 3, 2011, after a night of partying at Kilroy’s Sports Bar and at a friend’s apartment nearby.

She never made it home.

Police suspect foul play, but have made no arrests in her disappearance. She is presumed dead.

Her parents, Robert and Charlene Spierer, tried a litigious route for answers in the form of a civil lawsuit against three young men who were last with their daughter. A federal judge dismissed the case and the Spierers have appealed.

Charlene Spierer, contacted by The Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1FTDc9O ) at her New York home Monday night, acknowledged the vast majority of IU’s student population seems to have forgotten about Lauren, and many new to campus don’t know her daughter’s story.

“There’ll be a tragedy, and it will affect people for a few days or a few months and then .” she trailed off. “It’s terrible and sad and tragic.”


Most students who were freshmen at IU the semester following Lauren Spierer’s disappearance graduated last month.

As a 2011 graduate from Hamilton Southeastern High School, Wilson would have heard about Lauren Spierer and the intensive summer search for her during freshman orientation that summer.

Then, just two weeks before her own graduation, Wilson’s body was discovered along a road in rural Brown County the morning of April 24. The back of her skull had been crushed.

Wilson’s friends told police they had decided she was too intoxicated to continue drinking after they partied at a Hilton Garden Inn hotel room. So they helped her into a cab in front of Kilroy’s Sports Bar on North Walnut Street. Wilson was later discovered missing by her friends, who didn’t yet know police were investigating her slaying and had arrested 49-year-old Daniel Messel, a Bloomington man charged with killing her.


By the start of the 2012 fall semester, incoming freshmen did not hear about Lauren Spierer, or the circumstances of her disappearance, during freshman orientation.

Other tragedies had moved to the collective consciousness of the student body as time went on.

There was Renee Ohrn, who died in a fire at Terre Trace Apartments in October 2011. The 19-year-old freshman from Gary had been spending the night at a friend’s apartment, where a beeping smoke detector had been dismantled the night before the fatal fire.

There was Linden Whitt, the 20-year-old sophomore from Mishawaka who died in a fall from a balcony during a Little 500 party in April 2012.

There was Rachael Fiege, who fell down stairs at a party in August 2013. People moved the 19-year-old freshman from Zionsville off the basement floor and to a bed. They did not call for medical help until hours after the fall. She, too, died.

And now, Hannah Wilson.

During IU’s May commencement, a few graduating seniors shared memories of being new to campus right after Lauren Spierer went missing.

“I think some of them remember her and think about her. But I wouldn’t say it’s a topic of general conversation,” IU’s Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith said.

Each new batch of students at IU brings with it less awareness of the Spierer case.

“History does move on,” said Yale University professor Jeffrey C. Alexander, an expert on trauma.

“A terrible event that is a traumatic experience for a community may not be a traumatic memory for a community several years on,” he wrote in an email. “It entirely depends on sociologically understandable processes. Has the event been memorialized? Has it been ritualized? Has it been evoked continually by authorities and by popular culture?”

If a traumatic experience becomes institutionalized, it can continue to be experienced as if it happened yesterday. Alexander used Sept. 11, 2001, the Holocaust and slavery as examples.

“But much, much more frequently, events, the experiences of events, are not ritualized, so they are not passed on. This is not a disrespect to the original victim, but a sad, sociological fact of life,” he said.


Parent concerns regarding student tragedies change from year to year, depending on the latest such occurrence. But many share a common denominator: alcohol.

“College is not what it was when we went to school,” Charlene Spierer said. Parents don’t think of their children attending college in the same frame of reference. Study, get a degree, get a job.

“It’s a whole different ballgame now,” Charlene Spierer said, referring to the excesses of college partying.

It’s a hard lesson she’s had to learn, one that parents of incoming freshmen need to recognize before they buy the extra-long twin bed sheets for their child’s first dorm room.

Goldsmith said the largest evolution in IU’s culture the past several years can be associated with the “Culture of Care” initiative, which encourages students to be more mindful. Hoosiers helping Hoosiers.

“I can say that students seem more aware of things like the Lifeline Law and are more aware of how to intervene in situations,” Goldsmith said, estimating that more than 3,000 students have received training in bystander intervention.

The Culture of Care program was launched two semesters before Lauren Spierer disappeared.

“If someone had called 911 on June 3, our lives would be completely different,” Charlene Spierer said.

During a February appeals court hearing in Chicago, a federal judge asked why someone didn’t call 911 that night.

“I felt like I had been waiting three and a half years for someone to say that. Finally, someone, a voice of authority, said it,” she said.

She waits for the tragic to turn into a different kind of tragic.


During three years of not knowing what happened to her daughter who disappeared on a bicycle ride the morning of May 31, 2000, Marilyn Behrman talked to her: “Jill, where are you? Jill, why?”

The answers started to unfold when the 19-year-old IU student’s remains were discovered in a Morgan County field.

“Knowing something does help,” she said. “The not knowing is the hardest part.”

She tried to keep her thoughts from entering the darkest places.

“I want to remember the Jill I knew. I don’t want to remember the Jill that was murdered. Shot.” Last week, she learned the Indiana Court of Appeals denied the request of her daughter’s convicted killer to be released from prison.

In the 15 years since her daughter was killed after being abducted from the town where she grew up, Marilyn Behrman’s hair has turned from a mother’s brown to a grandmother’s gray. She’ll sometimes catch the stares of people who recognize her, but can’t quite place the face. Or sometimes, strangers who know who she is stop to talk.

It’s not students who remember her daughter. It’s the people of Bloomington. At the grocery store. In elevators. In the doctor’s office waiting room.

“It’s good for me to know that people still care and they remember. That’s something to hang on to.”


Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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