Newsrooms are in many ways driven by the calendar.
Holidays, anniversaries and other annual occurrences often send reporters into a rhythmic and predictable pattern of creating local news coverage.
Every March for the past nine years, a long line of Chronicle crime reporters have asked the same question — is there any new lead or evidence in the 2009 disappearance of 36-year-old Tenino mother Nancy Moyer?
I was the third reporter assigned to cover her puzzling disappearance, and I had no more success in developing or learning new information than my predecessors.
Every year, the answers from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office were basically the same; nope, nada, zilch.
Moyer seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth without leaving so much as a shred of evidence. In the early years, teams would routinely comb the nearby forests to no avail. An intrepid group of private investigators would turn up from time to time, but their interest in the case always seemed to wane in the face of a daunting lack of information to work with.
Just this year, the case was featured on the Investigation Discovery channel and the podcast “Hide and Seek,” which was launched by Kennewick resident James Baysinger, a man who earned the respect of locals with his dogged determination to uncover more evidence and revisit old leads.
The Chronicle methodically stuck to the case even as the immediate coverage gave way to annual acknowledgments.
There was false hope at times. When a Yelm woman was murdered on the Yelm-Tenino Trail in 2010, many immediately asked whether the suspect could have been responsible for Moyer’s disappearance. It turned out he wasn’t.
Year after year, Moyer’s smiling face would reappear in the pages of The Chronicle as we pleaded for additional information from the public, always to no avail.
It felt like a hopeless situation.
That all changed this week following the arrest of Eric Lee Roberts, a former coworker and neighbor of Moyer who, seemingly out of the blue, called 911 and matter-of-factly admitted to murdering Moyer.
“I don’t think anyone will be able to find her,” he said, according to court documents.
And thus begins the next painful search, one that might never be completed. Roberts insinuated that he burned the body, according to our story on the front page of today’s edition.
The lack of a body will prevent a measure of closure for Moyer’s friends and family.
My thoughts especially go to her two young daughters, including 19-year-old Samantha, who spoke at a Thursday press conference along with her father.
“It’s just been hard since then,” she said. “I’ve struggled a lot. Growing up without a mom sucks, especially when you don’t know where she is. … Lots of milestones. She didn’t get to see me graduate, she didn’t get to see my first dance, me drive a car, any of that. It would help so much to find her to find out what happened to her.”
While having a suspect in custody is in one way a positive milestone, it also means the grisly details of Moyer’s death will now be the focus of news coverage across the region, which won’t be easy for her friends and family.
Still, I’m grateful for answers that have for a decade escaped investigators, even if there are still many more questions to be asked.
As we take another trip around the sun, I look forward to another anniversary worthy of coverage — that of the day when justice was finally served after 10 years of asking the same questions with the same frustrating responses.
Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor for Lafromboise Communications.