The Disappearance of Bianca Piper

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EARLY LIFE:

Bianca Noel Piper was born as the youngest of three girls on December 26, 1991. Her parents, Shannon Tanner and David Piper, divorced in 1993, and David moved to Fredericktown, Missouri to work as a truck driver. Shannon began dating a man named Jim Felt, and in October 2004 they moved with Bianca and her siblings to Foley, Missouri.

Bianca was diagnosed with ADHD and severe bipolar disorder at a young age, conditions for which she was hospitalized. As a result, she suffered mood swings, periodic anxiety attacks, aggressive tendencies and issues with self-control. She was to take several medications on a daily basis, and when on them it was difficult to tell she struggled with her mental health. However, when off them, she became disoriented and had hallucinations.

At the time of her disappearance, she was an eighth-grader at Winfield Middle School who loves horses, Barbie and the colour purple. Her teachers described her as artistically talented, but with the mental capacity of a second-grader was placed in special education classes. She was reportedly absent from school quite frequently.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

At 6:15pm on March 10, 2005, Shannon dropped her daughter off on McIntosh Hill Road, a remote gravel stretch a mile from their home. Bianca had been having issues with anger management, and after having a tantrum over having to do the dishes asked to be given some time to cool off.

To deal with her anger, Bianca’s therapist had advised Shannon to drive her daughter to a location away from the family home and have her walk home alone. The pair had tried the technique the night before and found it to be successful, prompting Bianca to want to give it another try.

After dropping Bianca off, Shannon returned home to begin cooking dinner.

DISAPPEARANCE:

15 minutes went by and Bianca hadn’t returned home. Worried, Shannon drove to where she’d been dropped off, but found the road empty. She and Jim then went door-to-door, asking if anyone had seen Bianca. Unfortunately, no one had seen anything.

At 8:20pm, Shannon reported Bianca missing, leading the local authorities to issue an endangered missing child alert.

SEARCH:

Initially, investigators believed Bianca had gotten lost, meaning she’d likely succumbed to exposure in the below-freezing temperatures if not found. A 270-square-mile search involving search dogs and investigators on 4-wheelers and horseback uncovered no clues. A search of local sheds and other shelters delivered the same result. As such, it was determined Bianca had been abducted.

The official search for Bianca was called off a week, while citizen volunteers continued to look for any traces of the missing teenager.

Shannon and Jim were administered polygraph tests and both passed. David was also extensively interviewed. At this time, police do not consider anyone in Bianca’s family to be involved in her disappearance.

In March 2005, the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Bianca’s return. The family added an additional $5,000 to this total.

In May 2005, police responded to a domestic dispute between Shannon and Jim. Shannon filed a complaint against her live-in boyfriend, but later dropped it after the two reconciled.

Just a month later, Shannon was arrested and charged with assault on Bianca’s sister, Tiffany. She allegedly hit Tiffany on the head with a curling iron and threatened to tie her up and lock her in her bedroom. When deputies arrived at the home, they found Shannon on top of her daughter, holding her face to the ground, and noticed a large bump on Tiffany’s forehead.

When asked how the dispute began, Shannon claimed Tiffany had thrown a glass dish at her and that she was only trying to keep her from harming herself, as she’d stop taking her medication to keep her bipolar disorder and schizophrenia under control. At one point, Shannon shoved an officer and reached for a piece of broken glass on the ground. This prompted the second deputy to subdue her with a taser, after which she complied with their orders.

Following Shannon’s arrest, her other daughter was sent to live with her grandmother.

It’s rumoured a white pickup truck was seen near the pond on the property of a nearby neighbour on the night Bianca went missing. It’s alleged the vehicle was along the water for a minute or two, before driving away. The neighbour initially assumed it was someone turning around, but that changed after an interaction with Tiffany in 2009. It’s alleged the teenager claimed “her sister was in the pond,” prompting the neighbour to contact law enforcement. Unfortunately, nothing came of this tip.

Bianca’s image has been featured on thousands of missing person flyers and postcards that have been sent as far away as Maryland.

In 2007, investigators began investigating Michael J. Devlin, a pizzeria manager, for his possible involvement in not just Bianca’s case, but those of Charles Henderson and Scott Kleeshulte. Scott was 9 years old when he went missing from St. Charles, Missouri in 1988, while 11-year-old Charles was last seen in Moscow Mills, Missouri in July 1991.

Devlin came onto police radar in January 2007, when Shawn Hornbeck and William Ownby were found alive in his home. William had been missing for five days, while Shawn had disappeared four years prior. Both were held against their will by Devlin, who was subsequently charged and pled guilty to charges of kidnapping and child molestation. He was subsequently given a life sentence.

It was believed he may have been connected to other missing children from the area, but a task force set up to investigate him found no evidence of this.

Another person investigated for their possible involvement was convicted sex offender Paul S. Smith. He’d previously abducted 8-year-old Alisa Maier, whom he held captive before shooting himself in a confrontation with police. He’d previously been convicted of sodomy in a case involving a 10-year-old boy, for which he served 11 years.

Following his death, investigators looked into Smith’s background to see if he was involved in other cases, including Bianca’s.

In June 2012, Tiffany was arrested for selling two high school girls for sex. She’d placed ads online and invited adult men to meet the pair at a St. Peters Extended Stay America location. Her arrest came after she herself had been sold into prostitution. She refused to give up the name of the person involved in her own instance of exploitation.

Bianca’s disappearance is said to have changed her older sister. In April 2014, her accomplice, Demond Day, was sentenced to five years in prison, while she was later sentenced to eight.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Bianca’s disappearance, electronic billboards were erected along I-70 and Highway 370 in St. Charles County, Missouri.

In 2018, Lincoln County hired a new detective to work the case full-time.

At one point, it was theorized Bianca’s disappearance was related to the murder of Angela Marie Housman on November 18, 1993. The young girl went missing on her way home from school and was last seen departing from the school bus. Nine days later, her body was discovered by a hunter, tied to a tree, in the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area. It’s theorized she was left to die from exposure. An autopsy later revealed she’d been kept alive a week, her abductor torturing and raping her before tying her to the tree.

In March 2019, a crime lab used CODIS to run DNA found in Angela’s under where. It matched 61-year-old Earl Webster Cox. At the time of her murder, he’d family living three blocks from Angela’s school, and had previously been charged with sexual assault on minors, which began while he was station in Germany with the United States Air Force.

On June 5, 2019, he was arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping and sodomy in relation to Angela’s case, to which he pled guilty, and is currently serving a life sentence.

Bianca’s DNA and dentals are currently available for comparison, should her remains be located.

The case remains open. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has looked into hundreds of leads, and continues to receive around a dozen each year. On at least one occasion, they’ve called the family to meet a girl they believed might be Bianca, but all have proved to not be the missing girl.

In 2021, the sheriff’s office created a cold case unit to solve Bianca’s disappearance, along with other unsolved cases in the county. It’s based on Franklin County’s Cold Case Unit, which was cited by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt for its success since being founded in 2018.

THEORIES:

1) The primary theory in the case, which is supported by investigators, is that Bianca was abducted while walking back to her house. Given she’d been dropped off along a remote road, it’s possible someone who knew the area came across her and forced her into their vehicle.

2) Another possible explanation is that Bianca got lost of her way home. Given it was getting dark when Shannon dropped her off, it’s possible she got lost in the brush along the edge of the roadway and ended up succumbing to exposure in the cold.

However, there are those who don’t believe Bianca got lost, including investigators. This is due to the fact she wasn’t that far from her house and was carrying a flashlight with her. As well, an extensive search was conducted of the area where she was last known to be and nothing – including any signs of Bianca – were found.

3) A final theory is that Bianca’s mother had something to do with her disappearance. Some of those who’ve looked into the case cite the family’s disfunction as a reason why. Under this theory, it’s possible Shannon may have done something to Bianca after her daughter got upset over having to do her chores and made up the story of driving her from the home to give her a chance to cool off.

AFTERMATH:

Numerous vigils have been held over the years.

Shannon has since moved to St. Charles, Missouri, where she’s decorated her home with mementos of Bianca, including photographs and her daughter’s schoolwork. She also keeps two electronic candles in her living room windows, as Bianca always had lights hanging in her bedroom.

The family created the Bianca Noel Piper Facebook page to help keep the case in the public eye.

In 2009, David died of a heart attack.

Tiffany has since given birth to two children of her own.

Bianca’s case was featured on America’s Most Wanted.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Bianca Noel “B” Piper went missing from Foley, Lincoln County, Missouri on March 10, 2005. She was 13 years old, and was last seen wearing a lime green blouse, a grey Adidas hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and white sneakers. She was also carrying a flashlight. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’6″ and weighed 185 pounds. She has brown hair, which she typically wears in a ponytail, and brown eyes. Her ears are pierced, and she has scars on her arms, legs and one on her abdomen.

She may be in need of medical attention due to her mental health issues.

Currently, the case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 30 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at either 636-528-8546 or 636-528-6100. Tips can also be called into the St. Louis Office of the FBI at 314-589-2500.

Image Credit: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki/Unidentified Wiki

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