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WI SARA BUSHLAND: Missing from Spooner, WI - 3 April 1996 - Age 15

Discussion in 'Missing 1990 to 1999' started by Akoya, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Missing Since: April 3, 1996 from Spooner, Wisconsin
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Date Of Birth: August 15, 1980
    Age: 15 years old
    Height and Weight: 5'0, 104 pounds

    Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue/gray/green eyes. Bushland has moles on the left side of her neck and above her upper lip. She has a slender build. Bushland's nickname is Bug. Some agencies may spell her first name "Sarah."
    Clothing/Jewelry Description: Four sterling silver rings, including a Spooner High School class ring.

    Details of Disappearance

    Bushland was last seen exiting her school bus at the end of the driveway of her family's residence on April 3, 1996 in Spooner, Wisconsin. She has never been heard from again.

    Bushland's case was classified as that of an Endangered Runaway by law enforcement following her disappearance. It was later reclassified as Endangered Missing, then changed back to Endangered Runaway. Her case remains open and unsolved. Her father and stepmother believe she is deceased.

    Investigating Agency

    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Washburn County Sheriff's Office


    Charley Project








    Edited by Imamazed to add media link
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2016
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  2. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Sara Bushland
    Considered Missing and Endangered Since April 3rd 1996
    The Washburn County Sheriff's Office conducted an extensive ground and water search on Thursday May 16th and Friday May 17th, 2013. The search was conducted in cooperation with and the consent of Marie Lambert, Sara's mother and Jim Lambert, step-father, on property owned by Marie and Jim Lambert. We thank Marie and Jim and Sara's sister Lesley for their continued cooperation in efforts to find Sara.
    Many agencies and personnel assisted the Washburn County Sheriff's Office investigators in their search to include: Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, City of Superior/Douglas County Dive Team, St. Louis County MN Sheriff's Search and Rescue, Cadaver K-9 Units from the Midwest, Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin National Guard.
    Why and how this search came about and the results or information learned from this search will not be released, as this is still an ongoing criminal investigation.
    Sara has been missing for over 15 years and as far as we are concerned the case remains open and active until such time she is located. We will continue to do what has to be done to provide closure to Sara's family and friends and hold any and all responsible for her disappearance. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts.
    SPOONER, Wis. (WEAU) -- "You're scared to answer the phone, you never know what's going to be on the other side of the line," said Mike Bushland.
    For the past 17 years, that is how he has lived day in and day out since his daughter, Sara Bushland, was reported missing in April 1996.
    "I don't think it's good whatever happened but you gotta keep hoping," he said.
    Years of waiting for something, and now, some movement in the case.
    "They just said they were going to do this search, why I don't know" he said.
    He was told by investigators they were going to search his property where Sara Bushland lived near Spooner. He says it had been searched before, but now has gotten attention again.
    "They came with three boats and nine dogs and a bunch of people I guess.
    He believes 76 people were out there yesterday as well as on Friday. You could see several law enforcement officers on the scene. It is something he has been in the works for the past one to two months.
    "It was just a little deal, they have been planning this for a while," he said.
    "We'd ride together and sit on the bus together and go to school together and hang out," said Amy Riedll.
    Riedll grew up down the road from Sara Bushland and is hearing about investigators searching the property for the first time. More than a decade later, she has not forgotten her friend nor the April day in 1996 when she disappeared.
    "She didn't get on the bus the next day and wasn't around and then all the sudden everything came out that she was missing," she said.
    "Hardest part is they don't have a body, pretty hard to track it backwards without that," Mike Bushland added.
    The facts may be tough to face. But Bushland still holds on to hope, believing there is one thing to be true.
    "I'm sure somebody knows what happened to Sara, someone knows," he said.

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  3. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Sara Bushland, missing from Spooner

    By TODAY'S TMJ4 News Staff. CREATED May 1, 2014
    May is Missing Children's Month, and we're teaming up with the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children to bring you the pictures and stories of children who are missing throughout the state.

    This is Sara Bushland. Sara was last seen on April 3, 1996 in Spooner. She was 15 years old. The photo on the right is what Sara may have looked like at age 28. She would be 33 now. Sara has a mole on the left side of her neck and above her upper lip. If you have any information please call the Washburn County Sheriff's Office, or 1-800-THE-LOST.

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  4. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    The worst part is the not

    - Dawn Bushland,
    stepmother of missing girl

    But Sara Bushland dropped from sight in a way that Washington intern Chandra Levy did not. Bushland's blond, blue-eyed visage didn't land on front pages or television screens coast to coast. Law enforcement at first considered her a runaway. She was missing, but so was the sense of urgency about her case.

    "Of course, we contacted 'America's Most Wanted,' " but the case "is too cold," says Dawn Bushland, Michael Bushland's wife and the girl's stepmother. "There's not enough pizzazz."

    Meanwhile, every Father's Day, Michael Bushland prays that his daughter will call.

    Missing-persons cases are surprisingly common. Cases such as that of Levy's are much rarer.

    This year in Milwaukee, about 2,000 children and adults have been reported missing, and all but 200 or so of those cases have been resolved, police say.

    "There are several people reported each day. Most of them are children, and most are found within hours," says Lt. Daniel Ruzinski, a veteran sensitive-crimes detective. "The majority of them, probably 75 percent, are found within a day."

    An average of 700 to 800 children are reported missing each month in Wisconsin, state records show.

    The majority of those reported missing are found or return home on their own within hours or days, says Randy Romanski, a spokesman and policy analyst in Attorney General Jim Doyle's office.

    "On average, about 95 percent of children reported missing are located" in less than two days, he says. "Typically they would be runaways, children told to leave the home - say, during an argument - and then came back or were located. However, there are some that are longer-term cases or more serious."

    The children's edge
    In this respect, cases such as Bushland's are usually more promising than those such as Levy's. Children are more likely than adults to be reported as missing very quickly. Fewer people report adult friends and relatives as missing, even after extended absences, Ruzinski says.

    "Everybody's got a relative you haven't seen for a couple of months, right? Do you report them missing?" he says. "It's not unusual not to hear from cousin so-and-so for two or three months at a time, and all of a sudden he'll give you a call. So I think it's basically because adults can come and go as they please, where children, their parents are responsible for them."

    Once adults are reported missing, some factors make them easier to track down. An adult's employment records, travel arrangements and credit cards leave a paper trail.

    Still, there are resources for missing children that don't exist for missing adults.

    Most government and private missing-persons tracking organizations concentrate on children, Romanski says. In Wisconsin, Doyle's office oversees the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children, a conduit organization for coordinating statewide search efforts.

    In the Bushland case, a mix-up kept her name and photo off the national database of missing and exploited children about three years. Fliers and posters were distributed locally, but they produced few leads.

    Dawn Bushland wishes she and others had contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children immediately, instead of assuming that law enforcement would do so.

    "Everyone failed Sara, and I include myself," she said.

    It has been hard for her to watch the relentless focus on the Levy case in Washington. "America's Most Wanted" wasn't the only television show she tried. There were calls and e-mails to Sally Jessy Raphael, Montel Williams and Maury Povich, without success.

    In Levy's case, the coverage has been so intense that there were even stories about the one network, CBS, that wasn't reporting the case.

    "Makes me sick," Dawn Bushland says of the attention on Levy and U.S. Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.), who has admitted having an affair with the intern. "Sara didn't have an affair with a congressman. Mike and I are nobodies."

    Planned a memorial
    A year ago, Michael Bushland was thinking about holding a memorial service for his daughter, whose 21st birthday would be Aug. 15.

    "He believes, at least if he felt he needed to talk with Sara, he could go to the cemetery," Dawn Bushland says. "I said, 'You need to have a true confirmation.' The worst part is the not knowing."

    They held off on the memorial service.

    Other families of missing children face a different kind of uncertainty.

    Gail Boyden is the grandmother of Shawna Elizabeth Nowaczyk, 5, who went missing from her Eagle home in October. Boyden says she believes Shawna is with her mother, possibly in Guatemala.

    "She's got family she knows" in Guatemala, Boyden says. "We know she took American Airlines from O'Hare."

    Shawna's parents, Joseph and Mauren Nowaczyk, were going through a divorce when the mother and daughter disappeared, Boyden says. Authorities have been able to do little to locate Shawna, and if she is with her mother in Guatemala, Boyden believes she will be tough to bring home.

    "You can't touch them down there," she says.

    Boyden says the girl's disappearance has been hard on Joseph Nowaczyk, even though he has reason to believe that his daughter is still alive.

    "It's been terrible on him," she says. "It seems the longer it goes on, the more difficult it gets."

    She has no difficulty with the publicity surrounding Levy. She feels there is a different irony in her granddaughter's case.

    "They made a big deal about Elian Gonzalez," she says. "He wasn't even a citizen of the U.S. Here we have a citizen of the U.S., and they won't do a damn thing."

    Perhaps the closest Wisconsin has come to the media frenzy of the Levy case was the reaction to the disappearance of Laurie Depies, 20, in August 1992 from a parking lot outside her boyfriend's apartment in Menasha. She apparently set a soft-drink cup on her car while she locked it, then disappeared.

    "There was a great amount of attention. It was quite unbelievable," says her father, Mark Depies, 56. "There were about 400,000 posters put out with her picture. People came back and said, 'I saw Laurie's picture at a gas station in Canada.' "

    Within 12 hours or so of the disappearance, Mark Depies and his ex-wife saw the first television cameras covering the case.

    Friends and relatives manned a search center for Laurie Depies in a Menasha office building. Psychics approached the family, which heard from about 20 in all. By the fall, the family had appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about the case.

    Sense of urgency waned
    But the urgent hope felt early in the case began to drain as time went on. The first psychics had said things such as "Hurry, hurry. She's still alive. They're hurting her," Mark Depies recalls. After six weeks, the messages from psychics revolved around where police could find her body.

    The search center, which had been manned 24 hours a day for a while, began using an answering machine. It closed around Christmas in 1992, passing all its information on to police.

    "The media hung with us for a long time," Mark Depies says.

    There were stories at the one-year anniversary. More stories at two years.

    "The fifth anniversary, they just mentioned," he says.

    He found dealing with the media difficult. Even now, talking about his daughter brings back pain. He says his heart goes out to Levy's family and other families of missing persons.

    Mark Depies says he almost prefers not to know what happened to his daughter "because I'm afraid of what the answer is." Still, part of him can't surrender the last slim hope.

    He says he has about a 2% hope that she is still alive. "My mind says that she's no longer with us, but you always have a little hope," he says.

    Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 21, 2001.

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  5. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    NEW ARTICLE: Published April 1:

    Sheriff issues statement on continued investigation of disappearance of Sara Bushland


    Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden issued the following statement on Friday, April 1, about Sara Bushland, who went missing 20 years ago this coming Sunday, April 3, 1996.

    "Over these past 20 years this office and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation has actively pursued any and all leads provided by the public," the sheriff said. "Exhaustive searches have been conducted multiple times and many interviews with potential suspects and those with information have been done, in some cases many times with the same person. Some of our leads and interviews have taken us to other counties and states, we leave no stone unturned.

    "Sara's disappearance is still an active investigation and we are once again asking the public for help. We hope that this reminder of her disappearance with generate increased information and hopefully someone will say 'you know I do know something about Sara' and call the Washburn County Sheriff's Office.

    "Any information you have, no matter how insignificant you think it is, may be the needle in the stack we are looking for."

    The sheriff said anyone with information can call the sheriff's office at 715-468-4700 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.

    Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call the TIP Line at 715-468-2720.

    "Please help if you have any information," said Dryden.

    More information on Bushland's disappearance, including remembrances of her, will be in the April 7 issue of the "Spooner Advocate."
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  6. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Interesting that they keep searching the family's land. I don't quite get that?
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  7. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    The property is very rural and next to a lake. There were reports that Sara was seen getting into a pickup truck at the end of her driveway. Her parents reported that she had recently ended a relationship with an older young man, at their insistence. More reports indicate that she had actually seen this former boyfriend at lunch time. Another girl disappeared within months from a nearby community and her body was found outside of an adult sex store. Maybe the police felt Sara could be found in the nearby woods. Sara's parents have expressed that police were slow to start looking for Sara because they very quickly labeled her as a runaway.
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  8. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    Sara Bushland was last seen on April 3, 1996 in Spooner, Wisconsin. She was 15 years old. Sara was seen stepping off of her school bus at the entrance to the driveway of the residence where she lived with her mother and stepfather. There are reports that she spoke to someone in a dark pickup truck who had been driving behind the bus. Sara got into the pickup and drove off in the direction of the town of Trego. She has never been heard from again.

    Spooner High School


    County Highway E, Spooner, Wisconsin. Sara lived at W8420 Hwy E.


    Last edited: May 31, 2016
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  9. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    Descriptions of some searches.

    Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden issued the following statement on Friday, April 1, about Sara Bushland, who went missing 20 years ago this coming Sunday, April 3, 1996.

    "Over these past 20 years this office and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation has actively pursued any and all leads provided by the public," the sheriff said. "Exhaustive searches have been conducted multiple times and many interviews with potential suspects and those with information have been done, in some cases many times with the same person. Some of our leads and interviews have taken us to other counties and states, we leave no stone unturned.

    "Sara's disappearance is still an active investigation and we are once again asking the public for help. We hope that this reminder of her disappearance with generate increased information and hopefully someone will say 'you know I do know something about Sara' and call the Washburn County Sheriff's Office.


    The sheriff’s office called in cold case investigators from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about five years ago, Dryden said in 2011, and investigators spent two weeks reviewing files on the investigation and re-interviewing family and friends of Sara.

    “They couldn’t find anything new,” the sheriff said.

    In 2013, the home property was searched. Mike Bushland told a television station in the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire area that investigators used three boats, nine dogs, and as many as 76 people to search the property.

    “It was just a little deal, they have been planning this for a while,” he said in the interview.

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  10. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member

    Sara age progressed to 33.

    Sara had a billboard placed in her hometown in April for missing person awareness month. Well done Spooner! Hopefully it will jog a memory, Sara's hometown is so small.
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  11. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  12. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  13. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member

    Investigators: Someone in Spooner, Wisconsin Knows What Happened to Sara Bushland

    Spooner is a scenic community in western Wisconsin where a lot of people from the Twin Cities have cabins. Spooner is also where a missing person's investigation has been ongoing for nearly 21 years. Fifteen-year-old Sara Bushland was last seen getting off her school bus in 1996. There have been many twists and turns in the case over the years, but now after all this time, investigators feel they are closer than ever.

    Sara's sister, Lesley Bushland Small, and her father, Mike, believe someone in Spooner knows what happened to her.
    Mike and his two daughters lived in Chippewa Falls after he and his wife divorced. Sara later chose to move in with her mom and stepfamily in rural Spooner. She disappeared after getting off a school bus outside their home on April 3, 1996.

    "Nobody really knows for sure what happened," Mike said. “There are many people that say there was a pick-up truck but we're not sure she even got in it," Lesley added. She doesn't think Sara went far. "So we really need people to stand up and do what's right," Lesly said. "There are people that know what happened."

    "I believe that's accurate. I believe there may be more than one person” Chief Deputy Mike Richter of the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office said. Richter admits more could have been done when Sara disappeared. But in 1996, law enforcement wasn't trained to react to missing children as quickly as they are today. Sara was first labeled a runaway and then endangered.

    "It's a case that's 20, almost 21 years old," Richter said. “With that said, it's not a cold case, it's not a dead case, and it’s not in a file cabinet somewhere." Over the years, the case has made headlines. In 1997, a friend of Sara's was found dead outside an adult bookstore in Beloit, Wisconsin. "We have no reason to believe there's a connection between those two incidents," Richter said.

    Later, an extensive search was done on the property in rural Spooner were Sara was living with her mom and stepfamily. It didn’t turn up any evidence. They have also closely monitored Sara's personal information. There’s been no activity with somebody stealing her identity. And after all this time, Mike has kept the same phone number hoping his daughter will call. Lesley still uses her maiden name. She has also created a Facebook page for Sara in case she's searching. "And the waiting game is just painful. I mean it is just painful," Lesley said.

    Sadly, the family and police have come to the same conclusion. "I believe she's dead” Mike said. “I hope not, but I believe she is." "We have at this time no reason to believe that Sara is still alive," Richter said.

    But Richter said that motivates the sheriff's office even more. They are working with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to find out what happened to Sara. They are convinced she didn't go far and they'll find answers close to home in Spooner.

    "We just honestly are at a roadblock because no one will come forward," Lesley said. “We're just asking for everyone, anyone who might have any idea to come forward so that we can move on."

    "In 30 years, we've got no open homicides for the Washburn County Sheriff's Office, and this isn't officially a homicide case.," Richter said. "But for all practical purposes that's the way we see it. So, if we could get a little bit more help it might be just what we need."

    5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that helps the Washburn County Sheriff's Office solve the mystery of what happened to Sara.

    If you have information on Sara's disappearance, please call Chief Deputy Mike Richter of the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office at 715-468-4700, or the National Center for Missing And Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

    There are resources available to provide assistance to families with missing loved ones.

    You can find out more information about the Jacob Wetterling Resources Center here.
  14. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member


    Search continues for Spooner teen who has been missing for more than 20 years
    Posted: Feb 08, 2017 6:57 AM
    Someone in Spooner, Wisconsin knows what happened to Sara Bushland. ,Mike Bushland, Sara's father, said, "You know she's sly like a fox...She is.” Sara's sister Lesley Bushland Small, and father mike said she had a lot of friends and could hold her own with anyone. “She had a little mischievousness to her,” Lesley said. Mike and his two daughters lived in Chippewa Falls after he and his wife divorced. Sara later chose to move in with her mom and step-family in rural Spooner. The 15-year-old was last seen in 1996 getting off a school bus outside their home.

    “Nobody really knows for sure what happened,” Mike said. Lesley said, “There's many people that say there was a pick up truck, but we're not sure she even got in it.” Mike said, “They can't even pick down the color of the truck."
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  15. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  16. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member


    22 years since Sara Bushland disappearance

    This week marks 22 years since then 15-year-old Sara Bushland went missing from the Northland.

    On April 3rd, 1996, family members say Bushland rode the bus home from school near Spooner, Wisconsin, approached a truck that was following the bus, and was never seen or heard from again.

    Ever since agencies, like the Washburn County Sheriff's Office and the DCI out of Eau Claire, have assisted in searches, yielding little results.

    Family members say the case itself has garnered little attention over the last 22 years.

    "There have definitely been bumps in the road, cold cases don't get the attention they deserve, but we are not giving up. As a family, we continue to work for answers on a daily basis," says Lesley Bushland Small, Sara's sister. "We are talking to anyone and everyone that might know something. What we need is for more people to talk - to come forward with any information, even if they feel it's irrelevant."

    Bushland's case remains open to this day. She's listed as "endangered" on the Wisconsin Missing Person's list.
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  17. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Local cold cases brought to light in new book

    For decades, thirteen unsolved mysteries have left investigators in Wisconsin baffled, and families still searching for answers.

    Each one of them is a cold case, one dating back to 1921. Today, they’re all pieced together in a new book written by a true crime writer and Eau Claire Native.

    “She was just full of joy,” says Lesley Small, describing her sister, then 15-year-old Sara Bushland. Bushland went missing in rural Spooner back in 1996. “She wanted to help everyone, she wanted to please everyone,” adds Small.

    On Thursday evening, dozens of Chippewa Valley natives would hear Sara’s story at an event at the Local Store in downtown Eau Claire, featuring local true crime writer, Robert M. Dudley’s new book, “Cold Cases of West-Central Wisconsin.”

    Sara’s story is just one of 13 local mysteries in the book.

    “They deserve attention and my goal was to shine a light on those cases and hopefully bring answers to some,” says Dudley.

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  18. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Case Of Missing Wisconsin Teen Hits Home For Area Woman

    The wait for answers continues in the case of Wisconsin teenager Jayme Closs, who has been missing since Oct. 15. For another family from the same area, the tragedy is all too real.

    Sara Bushland was 15 years old when she disappeared 22 years ago.

    Long before the press briefings and field searches in Barron, Wisconsin, questions surrounded a home 30 miles north in Spooner in 1996.

    “It brings it all home,” Lesley Small said. “It’s the same feeling I get, then multiply it by 22 for 22 years.”

    Small’s younger sister — Sara Bushland — got off her school bus on April 3 and has not been seen since.

    “My mom called me quite frantic and mad and said Sara didn’t get off the bus and where is she?” Small recalled.

    Sara Bushland’s parents were divorced. She was living with her mom, stepdad and two step-brothers at the time she went missing. Small calls it a troubled home, choosing to live with her dad.

    “She didn’t really want to talk about what was happening inside that home. Later, with her diary I was able to get a better insight of that,” Small said.

    Sara was reported missing that night. Still, it took the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office three years to search the Spooner property.

    “She was classified as a runaway to start with, and even newspaper articles just asking her to come home were published,” Small said.

    But Small said she doesn’t want to focus on what didn’t happen in the past, looking instead to the present and future. Her mom and stepdad died last year. She wants more resources dedicated to Sara’s case and doesn’t think her rocky childhood should hold them back.

    “Every person that’s missing deserves that,” Small said.

    Lesley keeps a Facebook page detailing new developments, still missing the little sister that seemingly vanished.

    “I won’t give up,” Small said.

    If you have information on Sara’s disappearance, call the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office at 715-468-4700, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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  19. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Local family regains hope in missing child case after Jayme Closs found alive

    Many people are celebrating after Jayme Closs has returned home and is safe, but there are still 55 children listed as missing in Wisconsin, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    One of those stories hits close to home as a local family is still searching for their loved one after more than 20 years, Sara Bushland who was 15-years-old when she disappeared from outside of her Spooner home in 1996.

    Even after all of this time, Jayme’s survival gives a newfound hope for finding Sara. "We just won't give up, we just keep going,” said Sara’s sister, Lesley Small.

    It's now been 22 years since Lesley’s sister Sara Bushland disappeared from outside of their Spooner home. “She did get off the school bus, there was a truck behind the bus, and from there we know nothing,” Small said.

    Decades later she is still searching for answers and begging anyone with information to come forward. "Somebody has to know something, she didn't just disappear of the face of the earth and somebody knows,” Small added.

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  20. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Sara Bushland still missing from Wisconsin after stepping off school bus 23 years ago

    Sara Bushland was a social butterfly, according to her sister Lesley Small. “She could fit into any group,” Lesley told Dateline. “She could bounce around from one clique to another and she always fit right in.”

    Just 18 months apart in age, sisters Sara and Lesley were also close friends as they grew up in Colorado with their father. They got into trouble together, too, according to Lesley; in December of 1994, Sara got caught shoplifting. Rather than face her father’s disappointment, 13-year-old Sara fled to their mother Marie Lambert’s house in Spooner, Wisconsin, Lesley said.

    Lesley also told Dateline that despite her mother reporting Sara missing, investigators initially did not search for the teenager. The Washburn County Sheriff’s Department treated Sara’s disappearance as a runaway case. According to Sheriff Stuart, law enforcement conducted the first of several searches at the Lambert property in July of 1999 – more than three years after Sara disappeared. He said investigators also combed through a trash dump on the property in 1999 and dragged nearby Spring Lake in August of 2000. They found nothing of significance.

    Sheriff Stuart, who assumed his position in early 2019, told Dateline he can’t explain why investigators lagged in their search for Sara. The original investigators have since retired, he added.

    “The case has changed hands so many times. And each new detective assumes that the last group took care of it and looked into all the evidence,” Sara’s sister Lesley told Dateline. “It’s awful. At 17 years old, I believed law enforcement was doing everything it was supposed to be doing. It affects me every single day.”

    Sheriff Stuart says investigators won’t give up on the fight to find Sara.

    “The Sara Bushland case is still an ongoing investigation. We constantly get leads and we are doing follow-up with it. The case has never been closed,” Sheriff Stuart told Dateline. He would not describe the nature of the leads his office has received.

    Lesley’s only aim is to bring her sister home. “I will never give up hope that she’s still out there; there’s no evidence to say otherwise. I wouldn’t look poorly on her had she left,” Lesley said. “I won’t give up. I’ll continue to help find answers for Sara.”


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