This is an installment of my ongoing “unconfirmed” case study series. All of these cases have been connected to Ted Bundy in some way, whether by active investigation or later speculation, but never officially linked to him. As they are all still unsolved, generally police will not release the case files. However, using newspaper archives and other works for reference, I have written the most exhaustive summary of each case as I can. I also include my own analysis based on my research and personal knowledge of Bundy’s timeline and modus operandi.
All suspects are innocent until proven guilty and all opinions are my own and not that of law enforcement unless otherwise indicated.
“It starts as a missing person’s case,” said Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers. “It starts out also as a missing piece of carpet from a WSU building.”
Joyce LePage, a 21-year-old junior taking summer classes at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, was last seen alive on the evening of July 22, 1971, when friends dropped her off at her apartment. A tall young woman at 5’9”, she was described as attractive and athletic looking, with long, light brown hair. Police would later find her abandoned car parked four blocks away from her off-campus apartment on Maiden Lane. Her shoes and purse– minus identification and keys– were found inside her car. Already a licensed private pilot, LePage had also been taking skydiving lessons, with her first parachute jump scheduled for the next day, but she never made it to the lesson, nor to any of her university classes.
“She had no reason to take off, and was planning to come down for the Water Follies (boat races) that coming weekend,” said her brother, Bruce LePage. “She just never showed up.” As she had taken no belongings and had contacted no friends or relatives, foul play was immediately suspected in her disappearance. A neighbor reported seeing her getting into a car with two unknown men on the morning of the 23rd, and a psychic claimed that he had “seen” her boarding a plane bound for Argentina with a “Latin boy friend” in a “vision,” but none of these leads panned out and were eventually discarded.
Bruce said his sister had many admirers. “I just know there were a lot of guys who would have loved to have dated her,” he said. “This could very well be a person she turned down.” Her long distance boyfriend living in South Africa was also notified of her disappearance, but she wasn’t with him, and he hadn’t heard from her.
Nine months later, in April 1972, a teenager searching for gemstones along a dry creek bed found LePage’s skeletal remains, hidden by dense brush at the bottom of a deep ravine in Wawawai Canyon, ten miles southwest of Pullman. This site was remote, accessible only via a primitive gravel road. Her nude body was wrapped in a large piece of green shag carpet which had earlier been reported missing from Stevens Hall, a women’s dormitory on the WSU campus, which in the summer of 1971 was uninhabited and under renovation.
According to friends and described in letters sent to her overseas boyfriend, LePage enjoyed visiting the old, empty building, and would often go there to read, write, play the dorm’s baby grand piano, and occasionally spend the night in the rooms. “She would slip up there. She had a window she could slide open and slip inside. She would go in there and do her writing,” her brother Bruce said. “Clearly she was entering the hall, going in and out of there,” said retired WSU Police Sergeant Don Maupin. “And it wouldn’t be hard for someone else to do the same thing, particularly if they’re observing her… Some of her friends knew she was going into Stevens Hall. In fact, the people who dropped her off said, ‘You’ve got to quit doing that. It’s dangerous, and besides that you’re going to get in trouble.’”
Rosy Lord, who worked as a custodian for the university, said she believed LePage probably attended a party at Stevens on the night of her disappearance, because there were pizza boxes and drug paraphernalia spread around when her cleaning crew arrived the next morning. This was also when the 5′ x 6′ chunk of carpet was noted missing from the front foyer.
A friend mentioned that LePage had planned on visiting the hall on the evening of her disappearance, however, no one ever verified her presence at a party that night. Campus lore claims that bloodstains were found in Room 24 of the dormitory, but I was unable to confirm this story “officially” anywhere and it appears to be an urban legend. However, according to Maupin, “there’s little doubt that [Stevens Hall] is where the stabbing took place because she was stabbed multiple times and she was removed from the hall later on.”
A FBI forensic analysis of her remains found three areas of cuts to her ribs, which were determined to be knife wounds and the cause of her death. Based on the evidence, police believed she had been stabbed to death at Stevens Hall, wrapped in the carpet, and transported to the ravine. She was also found wrapped in two “military” blankets and bound with rope. “She was wrapped in a blanket first and then the carpet,” Sheriff Myers said.
LePage was not reported missing for ten days, and it was some time after that before police learned she liked to frequent the residence hall. As time went on the nature of the case created jurisdictional complexities: Pullman police investigated the missing persons case, WSU investigated the stolen carpet, and the Whitman County Sheriff would eventually be put in charge of the homicide investigation. This required assembling reports from multiple agencies, and it is unclear how long it took for the investigation to connect the remains to the missing carpet report from Stevens Hall. “That makes it difficult to piece together (today) what WSU did, what Whitman County did,” Myers said.
In 2012 a major suspect living in Las Vegas was re-interviewed and passed a polygraph test, eliminating him from the suspect pool. “He was interviewed immediately after Joyce disappeared and again after the body was found, but he’d never taken a polygraph,” Myers said. “He hadn’t been contacted again since about 1972. We met with him and said here’s how he could help. He was very cooperative and passed a polygraph. I’m confident at this point that we can focus on other avenues. That’s a big change in the investigation in terms of our focus.”
In 2014, evidence was re-submitted to the Washington State Crime Lab for forensic analysis without result. Most recently, attempts were made to track down people in LePage’s circle of friends and acquaintances, but the case remains cold. “It would be nice to bring this to a logical conclusion and hold someone responsible,” said WSU Police Officer Jeff Olmstead, who inherited the LePage case after Sgt. Maupin retired. “I think that’s the ultimate goal for the LePage family and for all the officers who investigated this over the years. My worst fear is what if we were never even close? What if it was someone who slipped through the cracks, who was never identified or interviewed by the early investigators?”
A Bundy Connection?
Over the years, some investigators pondered the likelihood of Ted Bundy being involved, based on the fact that the crime took place in Washington State near a college campus, and that LePage was an attractive young woman with long brown hair parted in the middle. “Profile-wise, she did fit the description (of Bundy’s victims),” Maupin said. Some reports indicated that a “yellow VW Bug” was seen on campus; others said an unknown person matching Bundy’s description was seen at the time of the disappearance. However, “there’s no real evidence he was involved or in the area,” said Myers, “and Bundy was probably only suggested as other leads went cold.” Conflictingly, in 1989 then-Sheriff Steve Thomson claimed that “there were certain similarities between this case and others that brought us to Bundy, and we later placed him in this area at about that time.” According to the Seattle Police Department’s timeline, in July 1971 Bundy was attending summer school at the University of Washington, in a relationship with his long-term girlfriend Liz Kloepfer, and working as a delivery driver for Pedline medical instrument supply company in Seattle. Pullman, Washington is about a five hour drive from Seattle.
While the connection was tenuous at best, the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office did furnish King County detective Robert Keppel with case information before his pre-execution interview with Ted Bundy in 1989. Keppel mentioned LePage briefly, but Bundy neither confirmed nor specifically denied the murder, perhaps because Keppel did not phrase the inquiry as a question. The following is an excerpt from Bundy’s confession to Keppel in January 1989:
RK: I guess what I need then, I want to eliminate any suggestions of rather than me throwing out stuff for you to say, you know, this is what we need to talk about or not, like the August 2nd, if there’s only eleven, then that’s fine. I don’t want to do any guess work. I mean, I’ve got girls like in 1971 at WSU that’s been murdered that I’m curious about.
TB: Yeah, I can tell you– I can tell you — yeah, we can do it that way if you’d like, too. And maybe in some ways that’s easier. I can tell you what, that’s, you know, what I’m not involved in. You know; if you have a list of that type in your head.
RK: There’s a gal in 1971, Thurston County.
RK: Not that far back. Nothing that far back?
TB: I have no hesitation about talking about things that I have done… No hesitation about telling you about what I haven’t done. Ok. So if I tell you something — I may not tell you something — I might not tell you something right now or every single detail right now, but if I tell you something, you can rely on it. And when I say, yes, I did it or no, I didn’t do something, that’s the way it is.
At WSU, Police Sergeant Maupin worked the LePage case for virtually his entire 26-year career. “I don’t want to rule anybody completely out,” Myers said. “But, my personal opinion is no. It wasn’t Ted Bundy. My gut feeling is this was someone she knew,” he said.
Today Joyce LePage’s murder remains the oldest active unsolved case in Whitman County, Washington. The Sheriff’s Office still will not release her file to the public, citing an “ongoing, open investigation.” Her brother still holds out hope that it will be solved. As of November 2018 he’s offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with information that helps lead to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. “In a way it sounds foolish to do a reward at this time. If there was going to be one it might have helped if it was done earlier on. But I guess I don’t care,” Bruce said.
“She was a very friendly, outgoing girl,” said her brother. “She was a profuse writer. If she were still around, I think she’d have been a high school or college English professor. Joyce had a great future ahead of her. Her life was cut off too soon… I’m not giving up. No reason to give up. Like I said, I would like justice out of this and if the individual is still alive, I’ll keep chasing him.”
The only reason Ted Bundy has ever been attributed to this crime is because the victim was an attractive young woman and it occurred near a college campus, during a time period when he lived in the same state. But if you look at the case objectively, very little actually ties Bundy to this murder besides the basic victim profile and general location.
The time frame of summer 1971 is outside Bundy’s known window of criminal activity. In all of his later confessions to Dr. Dorothy Lewis, Seattle Detective Bob Keppel, and FBI Special Agent Bill Hagmaier, Bundy never admitted to any murders before 1973 (or possibly 1972, according to his final conversation with Keppel). According to Bundy, around 1971 he may have attacked some women in Seattle but “chickened out” and ran away rather than killing them. Keppel briefly mentioned the LePage case during his final interview with the killer in January 1989. Bundy didn’t answer yes or no directly, but by my interpretation of the transcript, he seemed to deny it, albeit in a circuitous way. He also indicated that 1971 was too early for him to have committed any murders, and if he denied responsibility, he was telling the truth. While Bundy was indeed a habitual liar, so far his “death bed” confessions (and denials) have panned out as truthful, including the burial location of Debra Kent and the denial of the Kathy Devine murder.
The location is also unusual for an early Bundy murder. Bundy’s earliest known attacks occurred quite close to his residence in Seattle’s University District, usually just blocks away. This way he was able to stalk his victims, probably peeping into their windows and learning their routines. This was easy for him to do, as he was essentially their neighbor, and felt comfortable roaming about the neighborhood. In her interview with police, his friend Mary Lynn Chino said she had seen Bundy doing just that late at night. As he became more confident, he began to travel further away from his home base in search of victims. If his “pseudo confession” to Stephen Michaud is to be believed, Bundy traveled to Corvallis, Oregon for the Parks abduction specifically to throw law enforcement off his trail, after he had already committed four attacks within an hour’s drive of Seattle. In Utah and Florida as well, he initially stayed close to his residence, in Tallahassee not straying further than a few blocks to find his victims. Later he would travel further away, from Utah to Colorado and to Lake City from Tallahassee. This is likely because, as when he was first starting out, he felt more comfortable staying close to home and in familiar surroundings. Later he would purposefully travel from his home base as a way to avoid “heat” from nearby police activity, as well as to throw law enforcement off. Therefore, it’s odd to consider the LePage murder, which happened five hours away from his residence in Seattle, as a very early, possibly even first Bundy murder. Based on his known activity, it would make more sense for an early murder to take place close to home, which in 1971 would have been the University District in Seattle.
The murder weapon is also a major departure from Bundy’s usual modus operandi. Aside from the final murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, who may or may not have had her throat cut, Bundy never used a knife to kill. None of the discovered bodies or bones attributed to Bundy ever had any apparent stab wounds. He also never confessed to using a knife on any of his victims. To the contrary, in his confessions to Special Agent Bill Hagmaier, Bundy spoke about how he preferred strangling incapacitated women, watching their last breath, and the godlike power it lent him. The killer also said that his first victim (in 1973) was manually strangled with his bare hands, but found that too difficult, later switching to a ligature. Therefore, the M.O. of this stabbing homicide makes little sense when compared with Bundy’s usual method.
Knowing whether or not LePage was sexually assaulted would be a clue about her killer. Unfortunately that’s impossible to determine due to the decomposed condition of her remains when she was found. If there was no evidence of rape, this would point away from Bundy as the perpetrator, as he nearly always raped his victims when he had time to do so.
Finally, the disposal method of her body is also unlike Bundy. While he was known to leave remains in rural areas, he never wrapped bodies in blankets. He was partial to revisiting his victims’ bodies for several weeks after their death (when he didn’t bury them), and wrapping them in blankets bound with rope wouldn’t lend itself to such necrophilic activity.
In my layman’s opinion, there are two possible theories of the crime in this case– neither of which involve Ted Bundy. My initial thought is that whoever murdered LePage was probably stalking her for some time– learning her routine and watching her enter Stevens Hall. He would have been familiar with the campus and known that she was likely alone and vulnerable inside, possibly even sleeping without the benefit of locked doors and windows. He could have been a jealous suitor seeking revenge from rejection.
Another possibility is that there was indeed a party at Stevens that night, which LePage attended. Perhaps she rejected a man’s sexual advances, saying she had a boyfriend overseas, then he became angry, lost control under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and stabbed her to death. Both of those scenarios seem far more likely than Ted Bundy traveling five hours, following a stranger to an abandoned dormitory, sneaking in after her, and stabbing her to death.
For all of these reasons, I think it’s unlikely that Ted Bundy murdered Joyce LePage. Without the benefit of DNA evidence (it seems unclear whether any ever existed) and barring a confession, sadly this case may never be solved.
Joyce Margaret LePage
Rest in Peace
19 thoughts on “The Unconfirmed Cases: Joyce Margaret LePage, 1971”
Hi to Joyce’s family and friends, I live in Pullman and work at the university next to Stevens Hall. I walk past it everyday and wonder what happened in those walls. I don’t have anything to really add to get to the conclusion of her murder, except check to see if touch DNA is possible. Also, off Wawawai Rd is where they found her? It had to be someone familiar with the area to take her there. Maybe a fellow student that attended that party the night before? Have they checked to see who was in town or attending summer classes at the university? I’m hoping for resolution to this for her, her family and friends.
Dear Anonymous, thank you for your interest in Joyce’s case! DNA testing and fingerprint testing have been unsuccessful. Please remember that Joyce’s body was found nine months after her murder. Until then, her’s was just a missing person case. Once her body was found my father had her remains cremated. Washington State crime lab was not able to identify definitive DNA samples. The prime person of interest in this case knows he is being watched. While I had previously read his interview years ago I was recently able to listen to his taped, oral interview. That tape was located by an interested student who lives in the area. She, her sister and I recently met at the location where Joyce’s body was found in Wawawai Canyon. Since then, I’ve been inspired to have a permanent monument built which, when built, I will install at the edge of the road at that location. Hopefully, curious WSU college students will occasionally stop at the site and maybe study a little history on the case when they get back to the WSU campus. Best wishes to you! Bruce LePage. Go Cougs!
Thank you so much! I wasn’t concerned about the money, in fact, I had forgotten until you just wrote about it. No money needed, I’m a teacher! That’s a joke, incase you don’t know any teachers. We are overworked and under paid. ;0)
It is important for you to know that Joyce, although gone, and in a brutal way, from what I know of death and life before our birth and after our bodies die, is, the loved ones went home to a place that is of peace and unconditional love. Don’t think that she’s not at peace because of the way she was taken. I have a feeling she’s just fine, and probably watching over you.
Don’t abscess on the life she didn’t have, and that you didn’t get to have with her. She must have been so exceptional, a pilot! That is so cool! You were so lucky to have her as a sister!
Please keep us posted on the progress when you can. ❤️
Rhonda, I went through school with Joyce in Pasco, Wa. She rode the same bus home that I did. She was such a sweet person. I could always hear her laughter on the bus. I have followed this case for years, ever since it first happened. I’m sure that Joyce is in a great place. My heart breaks for her family. I have met with Bruce LePage and was able to see the bench that was built in her honor down on the Columbia River. I’ve always wondered if they were able to identify some of those people that were at the party that night and looked into whether or not they had been arrested at any time in their life for a criminal offense. I’ve struggled for years trying to come up with any options. One thing I never knew is that she was able to fly a plane. Every time we have a class reunion—Pasco High School, class of ’68 —I see her picture on the board of those we have lost. She was a great person
By the way, my name is Wendy.
Hi, Bruce. My name is Russ. My family used to farm in Block 15. My sister graduated from PHS in 1968 with Joyce. I am a year younger than Steve, but was in band with him. Me and my three siblings all graduated from WSU. I was heading into my junior year of high school when Joyce went missing. I cannot imagine the pain you and your family have endured from this horrible event. I offer my sincere condolences.
I periodically look on-line to see if any new leads or clues arise. Recently I saw something about there possibly being a “party” at Stevens Hall on the night of Joyce’s disappearance? If that’s the case, then wouldn’t there be several witnesses to interview?
Have her car keys and ID ever turned up?
I read a quote from a janitor that said the missing carpet was noticed on Friday morning, July 24th? If the building was being renovated, would janitors really be utilized during that time?
I agree with you – WSU is a special place and I love it. I admire you for continuing to seek answers and keep Joyce’s memory alive.
Hi, i’m from brazil and became instristed in this history when shearching about bundy possible murders and to be hostesty i don’t think it was bundy that killed joyce. It was someome else that knew her rotine to enter that place alone at night and i don’t’ think ted at 1971 living 5 hours from that place knew that. What if was the friends that left her there??? a janitor??? who knows
“Finally, the disposal method of her body is also unlike Bundy. While he was known to leave remains in rural areas, he never wrapped bodies in blankets. He was partial to revisiting his victims’ bodies for several weeks after their death (when he didn’t bury them), and wrapping them in blankets bound with rope wouldn’t lend itself to such necrophilic activity.”
Your analysis is very thorough and I agree with your conclusion that Bundy did not kill Ms LaPage. I have the feeling it was somebody she knew. When the murder weapon is a knife it usually implies a high degree of personal rage and it is usually an “opportunistic” weapon that happened to lie around when the argument/fight started, which goes well with a drunken, post- pizza party encounter turning violent.
The only argument I do not agree with is the above quote about the disposal manner; we know from his confessions that especially at the beginning, his main purpose after a murder, was to get rid of the guilt he felt and avoid detection, therefore I can see him covering or wrapping his first victims both for ritualistic and practical reasons. That being said, i do not believe Bundy was Joyce’s killer. It was somebody see knew, that used an opportunistic weapon (pizza knife maybe?) to kill her and an opportunistic wrapping method (a rug and blankets lying around) to conceal her body.
There is something that bothers me though: Joyce was a tall woman, how easy could somebody, in the middle of the night, wrap her up in two blankets, a rug, tie everything with rope and dispose her in a canyon in a location which admittedly was not easy to reach? I am wondering if the police has suspected the perpetrator having an accomplice or this being a group of friends cover up.
PS : New Patreon, new subscriber here! Your blog is fantastic! You are working very hard on it and it shows! I very much appreciate your equal focus both on victims and perpetrator which is so much needed in the true crime analysis and investigation.
I lived on the same dorm floor as Joyce and we were friends. Not just 20/20 hindsight to say how nice she was. She would try to make sure I was dressed well if I had a date.
Went to law school w/ Ted Bundy.
Do have a vague memory of 2 strange guys who showed up at her dorm room very late/early morning. Said they came from Seattle. When I say, strange,my thought is that they were too “pretty.” Just seemed odd guys. Would have been fall of 1970.
Hello Tiffany, I am from Pullman and this case does not get the attention it deserves, so thank you for writing this article. Do you know if the police have any DNA evidence? The forensic abilities are changing constantly. With the genetic and ancestry tracing they can do now makes me wonder if they have looked into those options.
I don’t know! The sheriff wouldn’t comment or release the files to me. However her brother Bruce commented on this article and may know more (if he’s comfortable talking about it).
I just stumbled across this story. So sad. She was so beautiful and just exuded happiness. I’m so sorry you’ve had to live with this nightmare for so long. God bless you and your family and I’ll pray you find answers soon.
Hello, Matt! Thank you for your condolences. I and my siblings are doing well. Only problem is we just keep getting older. What’s up with that? It still amazes me that in all the years of Washington State University’s 140 year history Joyce is the only murder victim. That tells me that this is a special place. Pullman, WA. sits in a very rural setting and has some of the most wholesome, ambitious students around. Sheriff Myers keeps winning elections and as long as he holds his position I am comfortable that every stone will turned over in Joyce’s case! Bruce LePage.
Hello Tiffany! Joyce’s brother, Bruce, here. Every so often I Google Joyce’s name to see if anything new pops up. I don’t know what inspires you to research these cases but just want to thank you for your compassion and desire to share stories like Joyce’s! You have done extensive research to be able to produce this work. Kudos to you! Job well done. I am around if you would ever wish to contact me. PS, the gentleman in the 1968 photo was just a friend / date for an evening event. Forward to the 1970-1971 school year…this is when Joyce became very close to the gentleman from South Africa who was a fellow WSU student. After the spring semester he flew back home. Joyce really cared for him but their relationship going forward was in question. Quite a distance from Pullman, WA. to South Africa! Joyce then stayed on campus to take summer school.
Hi Bruce, first of all I want to say how sorry I am for the loss of your lovely sister. I can tell she was a very special, vibrant young woman and loved by so many.
Thank you so much for your kind words about my work. It truly means a lot to me that you took the time to read and comment.
As for what inspires me… I suppose part of it is that I want to give victims like beautiful, kind Joyce a voice which is so often lacking in true crime writing, which too often focuses entirely on the perpetrator. My background is in libraries, archives, and legal research, so I’m able to apply that training to my work here. I strive to be as accurate, respectful, and nonsensational as possible when writing about these cases. I will make those corrections to the article; thanks for letting me know. If there’s anything else I missed or got wrong about her story, or anything else you’d like to say about Joyce, please let me know that as well. Feel free to email me if so- there should be a link on the home page for that.
Best wishes, and with hope of justice for Joyce,
Hi Tiffany, Was the parachute hobby explored in depth. Curious in part because that would have exposed her to a lot of men of various ages.
Interesting thought! Unfortunately I cannot say, as the Sheriff won’t release her case file to me, citing an ongoing investigation.
Tiffany, what great work you are doing! Anne Rule is a favorite of mine because of her sensitivity, and respectful approach regarding victims of violent crime.
I am from Pullman Washington, born and raised, (actually lived in Albion) and WSU graduate. I’m in Fort Worth, TX now, but this story has sparked my interest, in part because as a self absorbed 12 year old, I don’t remember this at all, and am feeling a little guilty, and because I’m a little home sick for my beloved Palouse.
The terrane in the Palouse region can be a little daunting as ever gravel road for miles around looks just the same. You could be 30 miles from the Wawawai area and find a spot that looks exactly the same…unless you have seen it from the air.
Have you considered a female assailant? Women can move heavy objects that are wrapped in something that can be drug, like a carpet. Also, would a man wrap Joyce in a blanket and tie it with rope? Women are more meticulous. Did she have skydiving, female acquaintances that flew or had boyfriends that flew or went skydiving with Joyce?
The rope makes me think this was premeditated, it’s not something that’s usually on hand.
Also, did Joyce have any acquaintances who were native to the area or surrounding area, like Moscow, Lewiston or Clarkston? Not many people know how to navigate Wawawai. It’s on the breaks of the Snake River and can be pretty tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Who all was linked to the Pullman Moscow airport? I’m assuming that’s where she flew out from?
There are lots of crop-duster spray planes as well, FYI.
Hello, Rhonda! Thanks to you, Tiffany Jean and all the other fine folks who keep the quest for answers to my sister, Joyce’s, death alive. Your brainstorming is inspirational, especially realizing that you are not privy to Joyce’s case file. Let me assure you that Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers is still taking strategic actions to try and unravel the mystery of Joyce’s murder. While I cannot share all I know, I feel safe in saying that there is still a person of interest who, within the not -too-distant past, refused to discuss the case with an FBI agent and that that person, at the same time, refused to take a polygraph test as requested by the officer. Does this mean this person is the murderer? Not enough to prosecute he/her but you can bet that this person will be tracked from here on out! A few years ago I offered a $100,000. reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Joyce’s murderer. Let me assure you, I am an aging, retired farmer who is tight by nature. Lol. With that said, I would love to have to cough up that reward money! This coming July 23rd marks the 50th anniversary of Joyce’s death. Hers is still the only murder, solved or unsolved, to happen on the Washington State University campus in 130 years. Sure says fine things about this school of higher learning!