WEAU | Eau Claire, Wisconsin | Sports

Unsolved murder gets a second look

(WEAU) – The Lamb’s Creek Boat landing looked very different in 1977 when 45-year old Joan Butterbach's mustang was discovered about 5 years after her disappearance.

"I saw a ripple emanating from something poking out of the water...all of a sudden I could see the shape of a car materialize underneath the water," said Mark VanOsdale, who found her car when he was 16 years old.

The Dunn County Sheriff's Department says the current water level is much higher than it was back in 70's, because back then repairs were being done on the Cedar Falls Dam.

Jay Butterbach was 16 at the time of his mother's disappearance and says his first time at the scene wasn't until March of this year and he still remembers the day she left.

"Just a normal day, knew she was planning on taking a trip up to the cities for a reading of a will and had plans to travel and visit friends," said 57 year old Jay Butterbach, Joan’s son.

The Dunn County Sheriff at the time says he suspected she was murdered by someone who knew the area. He says she was found with a piece of cloth around her neck, but is unsure if she was killed where the car was found.

“The ignition was on and the spare tire in the backseat it be awful hard to drive with that back there because it was such a small car," said Daryl Spagnoletti, former Dunn County Sheriff.

Police did suspect Joan's husband who killed himself two years after she disappeared, but the family doesn’t believe it was him. However investigators did have other leads, but none are current.

"Due to the interview process and evidence that they had at that time or alibi's that theses people had they were eliminated," said Travis Mayer, Dunn County Patrol Sergeant.

Dunn County Medical Examiner Chris Kruse says upcoming construction will change the area this summer and felt it was time the case was discussed again.

"We have half our closure with at least being able to bury her and that, that nagging question that's still there, who did and why," said Butterbach.

If you have any information about this case contact the Dunn County Sheriff's Tip line; 1-866-847-3866.


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