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Bianca Piper: Short Attention And Vanished

Bianca Piper resided in Foley, Missouri; a very small rural town about an hour north of St. Louis. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and was hospitalized at a young age. She was also diagnosed with ADHD and according to the Charley Project, she was in special education classes due to her “short attention span and the fact that she had missed a lot of school due to her psychiatric illnesses”.

She experienced “mood swings, hostile tendencies, periodic distress attacks, and problems with self-control”, but she saw a therapist and was on many medications to help manage her symptoms. Various sources also noted that if she does not take her medication, she may become disoriented and experience hallucinations. Her teachers said that she was artistically talented, and according to her mum, she loved horses and the color purple.

Bianca Vanished

Pic: Midwest Crime

On the day that she vanished, she had a bad argument with her mum about doing the dishes and got pretty agitated. Bianca’s therapist had instructed her mum in the past to drive a distance from the home and drop Bianca off so that she could walk home and calm down. The mum had done this once before and said that Bianca found it useful and asked her mum to drop her off further away this time so that she could take a long walk. At about 6:15 pm, Bianca’s mum dropped her off at a bridge on Macintosh Hill Road about a mile from their home. The St. Louis Dispatch described the location as a remote, winding gravel road. Bianca brought along a flashlight.

Bianca’s mum reported her missing at 8:20 pm when she hadn’t returned home. It was a cold evening and temperatures dipped below freezing {EDIT- the sources I read made it sound like it was that cold during her walk, but potentially they were referring to later that night?} Bianca was wearing a sweatshirt, a green linen blouse, blue jeans, and Adidas sneakers.

To me, this doesn’t appear like it would keep someone warm on such a cold evening, but I know that in parts of the country where the weather gets colder, a hoodie and jeans on a cold day wouldn’t be considered that abnormal. Police initially thought that she got lost and shortly succumbed to exposure. Nonetheless, after days of widespread searching over a 270-mile radius, police still discovered no trace of Bianca and they started to consider the likelihood that she had been kidnaped.

Clue

In the time since then, they have investigated numerous leads but none have panned out. They got many leads after Shawn Hornby and Ben Ownby were discovered alive and Michael Devlin was arrested. The police also investigated both Bianca’s parents and her mum’s live-in boyfriend extensively but none of them are considered suspects. The case is now considered cold, but a new cold case unit was created in Lincoln County to investigate Bianca’s disappearance and other cold cases in the county.

Different theories

In terms of my own opinion, I think that there are numerous possible justifications and each comes with different questions. Based on the weather that night and the distance from her home, the most simple explanation would be that she got lost or wandered away from the trail and perished of exposure. It sounds like the search covered an extensive region and started shortly after she vanished, so, strangely, her body was not discovered.

Between the time that she was dropped off and when her mum called 911, about 2 hours had gone by. I’m not sure how fast hypothermia would set in at that temperature but I think the time frame and weather limit how far she could have gotten away on foot (and I would welcome people with more knowledge of this to weigh in). It’s certainly possible that during the search they overlooked an area.

Another likelihood is that she ended her life by jumping into a body of water. It’s hard to say without realizing the precise location where she was dropped off on this road, but there are a couple of nearby creeks and by the mum’s account she dropped Bianca off at a bridge.

I’m not certain how deep the water or fast the current is in those creeks, but she could have potentially gotten hypothermia quite quickly if she entered the water and been carried away by the current. The Mississippi River is near Foley, but would potentially be an hour/hour and a half walk from the area where Bianca was dropped off.

It would make sense to scrutinize the mother as she was the last individual to see Bianca alive and for all we know, her account of that evening could be made up. The police interviewed her extensively and she has been consistent with her story (including doing a polygraph test though, of course, those aren’t very reliable).

Strange

The situations are certainly strange, but based on what I have read, it sounds like Bianca’s mum cared a lot about her wellbeing. I will say that I disagree with the therapist’s suggestion of dropping off a child who is acting out far from home in the cold, but I kind of blame the therapist for that one rather than the mother.

There are a lot of instances of mental health providers suggesting misguided and punitive “treatments” to parents who want to help their kids, and in this case (if we think the mother’s account) Bianca said she found it helpful. If the mother has no direct involvement in what occurred to Bianca, I’m sure she regrets dropping her off that night.

Kidnapping is a possibility, but I don’t see Michael Devlin (the man who abducted Shawn Hornby) as a likely suspect. It looks like he specifically targeted young boys so a 13-year-old girl would be a departure from that.

It sounds like this investigation was taken pretty seriously from the beginning, and I am pleased that they are considering different angles instead of writing her off as a runaway or a “troubled teen” which has happened in too many other similar cases. Regardless of the different likelihoods, I hope that the cold case unit finds an answer. I’m interested to hear what others think, and I hope this wasn’t too rambly.

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