In May of 1997, Heather Dawn Mullins Zimmerman was living with her parents in the rural village of Gifford, Illinois. At the time, her husband was serving with the United States Marines abroad and was stationed in Japan.
On the evening of May 26, 1997, Heather was getting ready to attend a party at a mobile home park off Route 136, just outside rural Rantoul, Illinois. According to her parents, they last recall her grabbing a soda from the refrigerator, before leaving with a friend around 8:30pm.
According to police, they have received information that Heather was dropped off near her family’s home at around 3:00am on the morning of May 27. However, this information could not be verified.
Heather had left all of her personal belongings at home. According to her family, she’d had her purse stolen just before she went missing and thus did not have any credit cards, identification or cash on her person when she left to attend the party. She also didn’t have access to a vehicle at the time, meaning she often relied on others to driver her places.
She never collected her final paycheque from Casey’s General Store, where she worked part-time as a clerk.
According to reports, Heather and her husband were experiencing martial problems around the time of her disappearance. These reports vary as to whether the pair were separated or divorced, and some state that her husband had returned home for a short time on leave, but do not reveal when this occurred. Despite the issues with her marriage, Heather’s family shares that it’s out of character for her to leave without warning.
In June 1997, an unidentified man called police with a tip, which said Heather’s body had been placed in a borrow pit. However, searches of this put turned up no evidence. This was one of many searches of the area. Investigators also searched an area in Paxton, Illinois known as Dogtown, which has three gravel pits and is a site which has seen many missing persons searches over the years. This specific search occurred in June 1998, and while dogs with the K9 Unit hit on the scent of human remains, nothing further turned up.
On March 10, 2007, a woman named Jamie Harper disappeared from the Rantoul area. According to her mother, Jame had left the house on March 9 to attend a party in the 1300 block of Laurel Drive with a male friend. While she left the party early on March 10, she never arrived home and has not been heard from since.
Police have shared that there are similarities between Jamie’s case and Heather’s disappearance, including an unverified tip which stated that Jamie’s body had been dumped in Dogtown after she died of a drug overdose, the area which had previously been searched in relation to Heather’s case. While they have not been able to conclusively conclude the cases are connected, the same unidentified man is considered a person of interested in both, and others have shared that there are individuals who were the last to see both women alive.
It’s currently unknown if Heather’s DNA, dentals or fingerprints are available for comparison, should her body be located.
1) The first theory in the case is that Heather died of an accidental drug overdose. A similar theory has been presented in Jamie’s case, and states that both women were dumped after those at each party panicked. However, given their bodies have not been located, police have been unable to verify what happened to them and if they are, in fact, deceased.
2) A second theory in the case is that Heather died as a result of foul play. Investigators have stated they have not ruled out the possibility that she disappeared not of her own accord, but have not shared what they believed happened to her.
A remembrance stone was placed in Roessler Memorial Park in Gifford, in honour of the 10th anniversary of Heather’s disappearance.
Heather’s parents continue to keep in contact with local media, in the hopes of one day locating their daughter and finding closure.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Heather Dawn Mullins Zimmerman went missing from Gifford, Champaign County, Illinois on May 26, 1997. She was 19 years old, and was last seen wearing a Sears navy blue and white striped chambray shirt, size medium; black St. Michael shoes, size 9 or 9 1/2; stonewashed Zana Di bellbottom jeans, size 9; a gold ring with six diamonds; gold ball earrings; diamond-studded earrings; and gold hoops. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’6″ and weighed 115 pounds. She has strawberry blonde hair and green eyes. She has scars on her face, left arm, left wrist and her left index finger, and has a tattoo of three roses with black stems on the outside of her left ankle. Her left ring finger doesn’t function properly, and she has a mole on her cheek. Her left ear is pierced eight times, while her right one is pierced six times.
Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing, with investigators not ruling out the possibility of foul play. If alive, she would be 42 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office at 217-384-1213.
Image Credit: The News-Gazette