Forgotten Wisconsin Cold Cases: Stacy Rudolph - Mailbox Confessions
MEDFORD, Wis. (WSAW) - December of 2000. Then President Bill Clinton’s term was about to expire, welcoming a new president, George W. Bush, Destiney’s Child was topping the charts with their smash hit ‘Independent Women,’ The Grinch “stole” the number one spot at the box office, and it was in December that Duane Rudolph of Medford got a letter that would change his life forever.
In it stated that his teenage daughter was gone and the abductor signed their name admitting to the crime.
Teenagers can be complicated. Think back to when you were that age, maybe some of you are that age now.
It’s probably safe to say we all remember a time when we were a rollercoaster of emotions and maybe a little bit difficult to predict, but Stacy Rudolph’s dad Duane said she was a smart girl, full of life.
“She always seemed to be in a good playful mood all the time and made friends easy. Outspoken, courteous. Not really shy. No, she made friends real easy. Good at school. Got good grades and stuff like that.”
So, when the 13-year-old didn’t show up at his home after school, it raised some eyebrows but didn’t quite rise to the level of panic. After all, she was a teenager.
“You know, we thought, oh, maybe she’s walking home. Maybe she hooked up with some friends or stayed after school for something,” Duane said. “You know, 13 years old? Well, girls want to hang out with their friends.”
That was until the mail was delivered and with it, a letter that would change everything.
“It just said that ‘I have Stacey and I will contact you and let you know what’s going on.’ And never heard anything from it,” said Duane.
The two-page letter was handwritten, dated December 1, 2000, and signed by Lori Krueger, Stacy’s biological mom.
Duane told us, “I thought at the time we all got along good. You know, and, and all of a sudden, she’s just gone.”
Our team was able to get a copy of the letter through a records request from the Clerk of Courts in Taylor County.
If you’re not familiar with the area, Medford is a small agricultural community with about 4,000 people. It’s located in northcentral Wisconsin, about 50 miles west of Wausau.
Now, before you see the letter, it’s best to get a little more background information on Stacy’s home life growing up.
Duane divorced Lori back in 1993 when Stacy was only six years old. Before then, she mainly lived with her mom.
Documents from the divorce stated Lori was a student at Northcentral Technical College and was working as a waitress at Pine Ridge Restaurant. It also said she was living in Merrill which is about a 30-minute drive from Duane’s home, but Lori didn’t stay there for long.
Duane described Stacy’s home life with Lori as unstable, filled with constant moving. It was so bad, he said it was hard to keep track of where Lori was living.
“I know her [Stacy’s] mom moved around a few times,” he continued. “Sometimes I traveled all the way to Hudson, or I’ve traveled all the way up to Phillips from Medford and as far as all the way down to the Milwaukee area. One of the suburbs of Milwaukee just to pick up Stacey and then we get her for a weekend or whatever and take her back.”
In 1997, Duane remarried. Together the couple had a little boy and a baby girl on the way when Stacy disappeared.
“I don’t even believe her and my wife really got in any arguments or nothing, you know, they liked to hang out, go shopping or whatever, you know, and everything seemed to be good,” Duane said.
Stacy had just turned 13 years old in November of 2000 and Duane said everything seemed normal.
“She was living with me and my wife and attended school in Medford. She seemed to be having a good time with it. And she made lots of friends and some of her friends.”
December 1 was a Friday, meaning Stacy was supposed to be at school, but she never got off the bus at the end of the day.
“We waited around, and we figured maybe that she won’t some of her friends are hanging out at school. We contacted the bus service in Medford and then they contacted the driver and the driver’s like she never got on the bus. We contact the school and they say, we don’t know, you know, school is released. And then they said that as far as they know, they thought that she got on a bus, but she never showed up at our house.”
The next day, a postmarked letter arrived in the mail...
Stacy is with me and will continue to be with me. Per the court decree, I still have placement, primary placement.
Being that she is now 13 years old and wants to be with me and not you, she’s with me. She called me to come and get her. I respect my daughter and what she wants unlike you who uses her to spite me. She cries cuz she wanted to come home with me. How can you be so selfish and uncaring as to what she wants? Maybe someday you’ll realize that the world and how everyone acts does not revolve around you.”
That’s pretty harsh and vaguely confusing.
After reading the court documents from 1993, and because of the divorce, the court ordered Duane and Lori to have shared custody but gave him physical placement of Stacy.
Meaning Stacy would live most of the time with Duane, and he had the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding her care. So, why she would say she had primary placement doesn’t make sense.
Then again, neither does taking a child without permission, even if that child is biologically yours.
Now, it is possible that another custody hearing was held, and a different decision was made, but we don’t have access to those documents.
After all, Stacy wasn’t abducted until 2003, seven years after Duane and Lori’s divorce.
So, after getting the letter Duane says that’s when the police got involved. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information on what they did to track down Lori.
“The few police officers that helped me out in Medford did a really nice job, you know. I mean, it seemed like they’re doing everything that they could, but they just weren’t making any groundwork on anything,” Duane said.
After being asked several times for an interview, Medford Police Department denied our request.
So, we honestly don’t know exactly what was done.
We can only assume that investigators looked for any vehicle sightings, tracked any banking information available, and looked into Lori’s boyfriend at the time, but there’s just no way of knowing and none of our sources went into specifics about what was done in terms of the investigation.
To be honest, though, it doesn’t sound like Duane knows either. Besides a potential sighting, communication between Duane and the investigators has gone silent.
“They said that they had a possible lead on a mother and daughter in Las Vegas — and then they got back to me and they’re like, yeah, it wasn’t them.”
A felony warrant was issued for Lori on September 19, 2002, almost two years after the abduction of Stacy.
In 2011, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released this age-progressed photo of Stacy at what she would look like at 23 years old.
Besides that, there has been virtually no movement on the case and between raising a family and working, Duane and his family have done what they can to try to find his daughter.
“I go on the internet and try to look up different things, different people,” Duane said. “And, you know, to see if Lori’s friends with him or stays here. You know, I never had no luck with any of it, you know.”
We asked Duane what it was like to get the letter 22 years ago, and more importantly, why Lori would take Stacy.
“I was mad, angry. Because I couldn’t believe that she would do that. You know, I mean, obviously, we had our bad times that’s why we weren’t together — but I’m like, I don’t think I ever really did anything that terrible in life to have her take to kid and never ever seen a kid again.”
He has no clue where the two went or where they could be today. He suspects they left with Lori’s boyfriend and that some potential “illegal activity” forced them to leave Wisconsin, but with it based on a hunch, and he didn’t elaborate.
“I’m totally clueless. You know, like I said before, are they in the United States? Are they? I did some research on Bruce, Laurie’s boyfriend at the time, and I know he had family from Chicago, Las Vegas, and Germany, I believe it was. I can’t say for sure. I mean, maybe they just went to the Bahamas? I don’t know. Maybe that’s where they’re living. I have no idea.”
What makes this case so complicated, and maybe why there has been such limited traction, is because of age. Not the age of the case, we mean Stacy’s age.
Today, Stacy is an adult in her 30s and able to make her own choices.
Maybe back then she did get tricked into leaving or maybe she wanted to leave with her mom. It’s a lot of maybe’s floating around and again, at the time, she was a teenager.
Today, she would most likely know what she left behind and how to get in contact with her family in Medford.
This podcast is the first time Duane has ever done any sort of sit-down interview with anyone.
So, we had to ask him a tough question — what if Stacy simply doesn’t want to be found?
Duane responded, “I talk with my wife all the time about it. We do talk about it and obviously, we just want to know that she’s okay. You know, does she ever get married? Does she have kids? You know, there are always questions and all. And obviously, we don’t have any answers. You know, when we miss — you know — I haven’t seen prom or graduation or anything.”
Stacy, if you’re listening to or seeing this, we don’t know why you have chosen to stay away or why you haven’t contacted any family or friends, but there are people who are still looking for you and all they want to know is if you’re okay.
Duane wants everyone out there to know, “If you see her, you know, contacted her Police Department, you know, and all they got to do is just investigate a little bit and oh, yeah, wasn’t her, you know, I mean, oh, yeah, it was her, you know, Stranger things have happened.”
Stacy was taken when she was 13 years old, but today she’d be 35. At the time she was 5′7″ with brown hair and brown eyes. She had pierced ears with a scar on the inside part of her right arm near her elbow.
We also have a picture of Lori.
Her birthday is December 17, 1969, which would have made her 30 years old at the time of Stacy’s abduction, and would now be 53. She’s described as Caucasian, 5′8″ and 125 lbs, with sandy blonde hair with hazel or brown eyes.
She may use the alias last names Rudolph and/or Verdone. Lori and Stacy may still be in the company of an adult male
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Stacy Rudolph or Lori Krueger, please call the Medford Police Department at (715) 748-1447.
Clearinghouse for Missing & Exploited Children & Adults: Wisconsin Department of Justice
The Charley Project
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
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