Nancy Moyer

Nancy Moyer

Nancy Moyer’s house in the 700 block of state Route 507, Tenino, was found empty on March 6, 2009. The door was ajar, the TV was on, a glass of red wine sat on a table and Moyer’s credit cards, purse and identification were all still inside.

In the decade that followed, law enforcement, private investigators, hopeful friends and family members, TV crews and podcasters would all sink their teeth into the troubling disappearance, all vying to uncover what happened to Moyer. The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office eventually dubbed Moyer’s case a no-body homicide — meaning although neither a body nor remains had been recovered, Moyer was almost certainly dead at the hands of another.

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Ten years later, with the arrest of a suspect who reportedly confessed to the crime before retracting his statements, many are reflecting on the past decade.

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said the new direction the case has taken is victory for investigating law enforcement officers.

“I was a deputy at the time and I was involved in this case as well. I can tell you any member of Thurston County Sheriff’s Office that when you have these cold cases that bring new information or new leads to the solving of the crime, you’re always excited about the persistence we have in these cases,” he said. “Many people tend to forget these sort of crimes. In law enforcement we don’t forget any of these crimes.”

Bill Moyer and Samantha Moyer — one of their daughters — made an appearance at a press conference this week. While noting that the family hasn’t heard many details about the ongoing investigation, Bill Moyer thanked law enforcement for their dedication to the case over the past 10 years.

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“Over the years we’ve dealt with a lot and they’ve been very good to the family and very much appreciate what they’ve done, because 10 years is a long time for us and it’s a long time for law enforcement,” he said.

John Snaza’s brother, Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, said any break in a cold case — even if it’s that of a different jurisdiction — is an encouraging thing. Lewis County continues to investigate a number of cold cases, Rob Snaza said, referencing pieces of evidence connected to Lewis County cold cases that were recently sent for processing at the Washington State Patrol lab.

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“This is always a glimmer of hope for the rest of us that are doing these cold cases, because you hear across the nation about these cold cases being resolved. It’s just a matter of going after due diligence, going after the case and working hard and submitting items into evidence to be tested through labs,” he said. “…We’re committed … that all of the cold cases we have in the county, we want to work and we want to solve. We want to bring resolution, like the family does. … It’s important for the family and it’s important to us that we not give up on those victims.”

On March 8, 2009, Moyer’s husband, Bill Moyer, found the house empty after dropping off their two children. While still married, the couple had been separated for two years. At that point, no one had seen Moyer for two days — when she carpooled home with a co-worker at her job at the Department of Ecology in Lacey, and was seen later that day buying groceries in Tenino.

It wasn’t like Moyer to not be home when the kids were to be dropped off, Bill Moyer told law enforcement. Her white Honda was still parked in the driveway.

Bev Poston, Moyer’s former boss at the Department of Ecology, told The Chronicle in February 2010: “I’m hoping. My gut feeling is that she is no longer with us. … If she was, I know she would have moved heaven and earth to contact someone.”

Poston, as reported in a 2019 Chronicle article, said she organized search parties throughout the area and researched searching techniques.

She was contacted by a psychic, who said she sensed a location the body might be hidden.

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Leads were scarce throughout the year, until the grisly murder of a Yelm woman in August 2010 — and the subsequent arrest of Bernard K. Howell — caused some to draw connections between the two incidents, and causing some to put Howell at the top of their suspect list.

Vanda Boone, 60, was found dead in the back of Howell’s truck after he was pulled over by a Thurston County sheriff’s deputy. Her throat had been slit and she had suffered blunt force injuries to her head and neck, said Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.

Former Tenino Police Officer Adam Haggerty said he was one of the first law enforcement officers on scene, and described Howell’s distant “1,000-yard stare.”

Howell later pleaded guilty to the death and was sentenced to 26 years. While some investigators would later discard the notion that Howell was also responsible for Moyer’s disappearance, the Boone murder would certainly label Howell a person of interest. However, authorities still lacked concrete leads.

In 2013, Olympia-based private investigators headed by Fred Doughty, an ex-officer and defense criminal investigator, began to reexamine the case, The Chronicle reported. Doughty said, at the time, the team would go back to interview family and extended family members in attempts to catch clues that had been missed.

“Somebody knows. Somebody knows something, but unfortunately no one has come to us and said something,” said Detective Ben Elkins with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office in 2016.

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