The cold case murder of Wil Hendrick - Moscow, Idaho - January 10, 1999

It was January 9, 1999, the first weekend after Christmas break, and most of the University of Idaho students had returned to campus. To celebrate, there were several parties at students' homes that night in Moscow. Katie Payne also threw a party on the second floor, mainly for theater students, while her upstairs neighbor did the same but for former athletes from highschool. Williams 'Wil' Hendrick, 25, decided that night to attend Katie's party, who was a friend of his. He was a well liked theater student, and had just scored his first small part in a Hollywood movie. Wil was gay and had a boyfriend named Jerry Schutz for five years. Since the couple were remodeling their kitchen that day, Jerry didn't feel like going that night, so Wil went to the party alone. The couple unknowingly said goodbye for the last time that night, when Wil closed the door behind him.

While the party was going on, Wil noticed that Karen, another friend of his, was having problems with her boyfriend who was on the third floor. Because Wil was quite protective of his friends, and usually didn't react well to alcohol, some partygoers feared a confrontation. However, peace returned when Karen went home around 2:30 a.m.., although the two different student groups didn't get along too well anyway. Karen had asked Katie to keep an eye on the now drunk Wil before she left. He never minced words and often reacted harshly or even aggressively to unkind comments.

A little while later, Katie decided to call Karen to see if she had made it home safely. Fortunately, that was the case, after which Katie rejoined the party. However, she then noticed that Wil was suddenly gone. She couldn't find him anywhere, but saw his car was still parked outside, so she guessed he'd gone to the other party on the third floor.

Will is missing
The next day, Jerry noticed that Wil hadn't come home from the party. He called Katie, but she said Wil wasn't with her and he hadn't been to the party all night. His car was no longer in the parking lot. When other students didn't seem to know where Wil had gone either, Jerry started to worry. He informed Wil's parents, after which thirty-six hours later on Monday morning, friends, family and the police were looking for the 25-year-old student.

That day, they found his car in a parking lot at the intersection of Fourth Street and Jackson Street. The car was unlocked and Wil's wallet was in the backseat, along with his portfolio of artwork and costume designs. His work keys were also found on the dashboard. Jerry was sure Wil would never leave these important items in his car and began to wonder what the hell had happened to his partner.

Police Investigation
Detectives examined Wil's car and found several sets of fingerprints. However, they did not find any blood or hair samples in the vehicle and therefore there was no clear evidence of foul play. Still, the situation was suspicious. And while Jerry still thought Wil might have ended up drunk in a ditch somewhere, others feared worse.

Detectives began their investigation by questioning the students who attended the party that night. Those conversations showed that Wil had quarreled with a number of fellow students. A number of partygoers also said that at one point they heard a car speeding away from the party.
The detectives had the students with whom Wil had argued take a polygraph, which they all passed... Wil's disappearance was not solved, and little news was reported in the case in the following years.

The family felt that the police had not taken the disappearance seriously at first, and accused them that important information may have been lost as a result. However, the police denied the allegation, saying they had taken the case seriously from the start, and had investigated hundreds of tips and possible sightings of people.

Wil Hendrick found dead
On September 17, 2002, the search for Wil finally came to an end. However, it did not have a happy ending. That day, in a rural area in Latah County, outside of Moscow, four hunters came across a human skull and jawbone, which were later revealed to belong to Wil Hendrick. Two years after the disappearance, investigators could no longer find a cause of death, but it was assumed that Wil had been killed by violence.

The Moscow Police Department, the Idaho State Police, the Latah County Sheriff's Office, the Lewiston Police Department and the FBI formed the Wil Hendrick Homicide Investigation Task Force. The FBI from Quantico supported the investigation with their specially trained behavioral analysis unit. After studying the case, the special agents of that unit suspected that Wil had not been killed by an unknown person, and that the motive most likely was not robbery. According to the behavioral unit, the perpetrator and victim knew each other, and the killer was likely familiar with the area.

Persons of Interest
During the investigation, which became a murder investigation after the remains of Wil were found, several persons of interest appeared on the list of the police.

For example, a downstairs neighbor of Katie Payne was briefly in the picture after he told the police that Wil had walked into his apartment that night drunk and that he was looking for a fight. Although the man said he immediately sent Wil away, detectives searched his apartment. However, they found no evidence there for his involvement in the case.

Because Katey believed that Wil was probably killed by someone who was at the party that night, the police questioned everyone Wil had argued with that night. They were all subjected to a polygraph, and all passed.

Another possible suspect was a shuttle driver who had worked for Jerry, Wil's partner. Jerry had fired him two months before the disappearance after an insult to gay people. The fired employee, who incidentally lived in the same trailer park as Wil and Jerry, then found work for a transport company in Lewiston, about 50 kilometers south of Moscow. According to the police, the times that this man left for work and the time that Wil disappeared corresponded. Detectives tracked down the man and questioned him about the case. They also examined his trailer, which he had left in the meantime. Nothing suspicious was found, nor did the interrogation give any indication that he had anything to do with it.

In addition to these persons of interest, there was one more person that Sheriff Wayne Rausch said stood out. At the time of the investigation, he was a detective and Jeff Crouch was a sheriff. However, he no longer allowed Rausch to participate in Wil's murder case, and even forbade him access to his own reports on the file. Only when Rausch himself became sheriff in 2004 and was able to get back into the case, was he surprised to see the lack of follow-up in the case. Did Rausch turn a blind eye to the killer? That question may be asked, but remains unanswered.

Information and Tips
Wil's murder is long overdue. But his remaining family and Jerry are still eager to know exactly what happened to him. There must be people who know more about the case. Are you one of them? Then put all your feelings aside and please share your information with us now so that the case may be resolved. Don't hesitate and get in touch now (anonymously) using the form below.

This goes without the interference of the police, and entirely through our editors. If you would like to remain anonymous, do not enter your name and e-mail address. We ensure that your information ends up in the right place with the appropriate cold case team. 

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