Real Name: Wendy Rachel Von Huben
Nicknames: Becky Cooper
Location: Woodstock, Illinois; Bradenton, Florida
Date: February 22, 1997; March 23, 1997
Date of Birth: February 17, 1981
Weight: 140 pounds
Marital Status: Dating
Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, green eyes.
Details: Sixteen-year-old Wendy Von Huben grew up in Kankakee, Illinois. In 1995, she and her parents moved to Woodstock, 100 miles to the north. However, she did not adjust well in her new town or her new school. In December 1996, she began dating nineteen-year-old Jesse Howell, who had recently moved into his own home. On February 22, 1997, she told her parents that she was staying over at a friend's house. In reality, however, they ran away, after Jesse promised to take her around the world. Her parents reported her missing the next day. They later learned from her school that she had skipped classes up to a week prior to her disappearance.
Wendy and Jesse went on a whirlwind journey, along with another couple. During the trip, they slept in their friend's car and stopped in different states. They ended up in Bradenton, Florida where they parted ways with the other couple. They ran out of money there and began living under a bridge near Dade City. Finally, on March 19, Wendy called her parents from a Bradenton homeless shelter. She asked for $200 for a bus ticket back home for her and Jesse. A few days later, Jesse called his parents from a nearby truck stop. He said that they were on their way home. They picked up the money wired to them by Wendy's parents. However, they did not board a bus for home.
Two days later, on March 23, Jesse was discovered bludgeoned to death near the railroad tracks in Marion County, Florida. There was still money in his pocket and a half-smoked cigarette on the ground. He had been struck from behind and there was no evidence of a struggle. It also appeared that he had been dragged to the spot where he was found. A small drop of blood on his jacket was believed to be Wendy's. Police suspected that she witnessed his murder and also met with foul play, although they could not find her. Curiously, the only footprints found at the scene were believed to have belonged to him.
In the days that followed, Wendy's parents and police distributed thousands of missing person fliers. There were several sightings of her, but most were inconclusive and unconfirmed. Finally, an intriguing tip emerged from two homeless men near Jacksonville. In late March, they had seen a person resembling Wendy come through town with a man named "Bob". Police later identified him as Bobby Ray Taylor, a railroad rider. The witnesses noted that he has one leg and a prosthesis for the other one. He also has teardrops under one eye. Police noted that he is not a suspect, but is wanted for questioning.
Several weeks later, on June 4, Wendy's parents received a hangup call. A few minutes later, they received another call. Since it was a collect call, the caller was asked to identify him or herself. She said, "It's me, Wendy!" and then hung up. Her mother went next door to call the police. At 8pm, the girl believed to be Wendy called again and told her father that she was at a gas station in Kankakee. In the conversation, she also said that the pay phone did not have a phone number on its receiver. However, the conversation was so short, her father was not sure that it was actually her.
Police were able to track the pay phone to a Phillips 66 on Indiana Street. They reviewed the station's surveillance video and spotted a teenage girl that matched Wendy's description. Her parents watched it and agreed that this was her. Police estimated that it was filmed within minutes of the phone calls.
However, the possibility that this was Wendy began to lose credibility when police subpoenaed phone records. They discovered that the phone calls were made from a different gas station two miles away. At that one, there was a missing flier posted with the Von Hubens' home phone number. This led police to suspect that the calls may have been a cruel joke. However, her parents still hope that she is alive.
Suspects: Some local drifters told police that Wendy was travelling with a one-legged railroad car rider known as "Bob", who has since been identified as Bobby Ray Taylor. Authorities can't confirm that Bobby and Wendy are together, or if the witnesses are mistaken, as some believe that Wendy is dead and was killed by the same person who killed Jesse. They have noted that Taylor is not considered a suspect in the case; he is only wanted for questioning.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 17, 1998 episode. It was also documented on Motives & Murders: Cracking the Case.
Some sources spell her last name as "Hubben".
Results: Solved. In April 1998, the drifter named Bobby Ray Taylor was located. Police questioned him about Wendy. He claimed that he had seen her before, but couldn't recall any details. He also denied knowing anything about Jesse's murder. Investigators determined that he was not involved in this case.
In July 2000, Angel Resendiz, also known as "The Railroad Killer", confessed to killing Wendy and Jesse. He claimed that he struck Jesse over the head with a railroad car coupling and strangled Wendy eight hours later. The identity of the murder weapon had never been released to the public. Resendiz led police to Wendy's remains, which were found fifteen miles from the spot where Jesse was found. DNA and jewelry found on them confirmed her identity.
Resendiz confessed to at least nine murders and was convicted of the murder of Houston doctor Claudia Benton. Police believe he was responsible for at least fifteen murders dating back to 1986. Fingerprints and DNA evidence connected him to some of these murders. He was executed in June 2006. He and his crimes were documented on shows such as The FBI Files.
- Wendy Von Huben on Unsolved Archive
- Details emerge as search goes on for girl, 16
- Investigators continue hunt for missing Woodstock girl
- Cops Seek Fresh Clues To Find Teen
- Sightings give new hope for Von Hubens
- Woodstock girl may be in Illinois
- Parents: Tape Shows Missing Daughter
- Cop Gets New Lead On Missing Teenager
- Law-enforcement agencies seek Resendez link to disappearance
- Slaying May Have Link To `Railroad Killer' Case
- Rail Murderer Claims He Killed Missing Woodstock Girl
- Sumter Bones May Be Girl's
- Killer leads cops to teen-age girl's body
- DNA Shows Remains Are Those Of Missing Girl
- Woodstock teen identified as railroad murder victim
- The end of the line