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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Idaho

Missing Girl Still Haunts Town Disappearance United Challis, But Divided Girl’s Parents

Associated Press

Challis is not formally marking the third anniversary of the disappearance of 9-year-old Stephanie Crane, but no one has forgotten her.

Stephanie, described as a sweet girl partial to the color purple, vanished Oct. 11, 1993, after leaving the Challis bowling alley. The anniversary still casts a pall on the community of 1,100, said Christina Becker, her baby sitter and close family friend.

“People have gone on with their lives,” she said. “But absolutely nobody has forgotten, least of all friends and family.”

After she disappeared walking toward Challis High School, 200 searchers covered 7,000 square miles of Custer and Lemhi Counties. But the search ended after several weeks.

Tracking dogs were brought in. Millions of postcard photos were mailed to homes around the country by a direct-mail company. The case has also been on the “America’s Most Wanted” crime show.

“From time to time we get calls,” Custer County sheriff’s dispatcher Melanie Hawkins said. “It’s mostly, ‘What happened to the Crane girl?’ We don’t have any solid leads.”

If her disappearance united Challis, it split her family. Her father, Ben, and her mother, Sandi, divorced last year.

“Her disappearance had a lot to do with it,” Becker said.

Stephanie’s disappearance has made parents more cautious.

Peggy Piva, co-owner of Challis Lanes, where Stephanie was in a youth bowling league, still walks kids from the elementary school on their way to bowl.

Posters show Stephanie’s actual photo and a computer-generated image of what she would look like now.

At the high school’s homecoming football game two weeks ago - during the week of her birthday - purple balloons were released in her memory.

“She was a real sweet little girl,” said Kay Piva, counselor at Challis’ elementary and middle schools.

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