22-year-old Diane Marie Schulte lived in Nampa, Idaho with her husband of two years, 24-year-old Fred Schulte. They had moved to Nampa from Iowa in the spring of 1976. Neither of the Schultes could be described as social butterflies, but Diane possessed an unusually reserved and non-social disposition. She spent most of her free time at home, where she occupied herself with macrame, reading, and her three cats. She was described in an official report as “extremely introverted and insecure," and that she “responds antagonistically when approached by strangers, or believes a stranger is encroaching on her psychological territory.” Diane was long estranged from her parents, had no friends in the area, and apart from her husband, the one person she was close to was her grandmother, who lived far away in Flint, Michigan. Diane and her grandmother only rarely saw each other in person, but they spoke often on the phone. Most people would find Diane’s life a dull and lonely one, but it suited her. She seemed quite content with her lot, and neighbors believed that she and her husband, whom co-workers described as “solid and happy,” were extremely devoted to each other. Diane once wrote to her husband, “I know that I don’t always show it, but I love you with all my heart and soul. Your love is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
On March 25, 1977, the Schultes visited the local library. Afterwards, Fred suggested that they go for a walk, but Diane declined, saying she wasn’t feeling well. The following morning, Fred went to his job at a Boise unemployment office. Later that morning, a neighbor observed Diane outside the house, as if she was preparing to go for a walk. (Something she often did, with or without Fred.) When Fred returned home that evening, his wife was gone.
Aside from Diane’s uncharacteristic absence, everything in the house seemed normal. Her car was in the driveway, and there was mail and a UPS box waiting on the front porch. All of Diane’s possessions, including her purse, were inside. The only items missing were the keys to a P.O. box and their rented house. Her three cats were shut up in a spare bedroom, which is what she always did when about to go somewhere. However, her watch and wedding ring were on a desk. She always left them there when she was at home or preparing to leave for just a very brief time. Fred found the situation weird enough to immediately contact police.
Unfortunately, this was one of those missing-persons cases where investigators were immediately stymied by a lack of clues. Diane’s grandmother told police that the last time they talked, just the day before Diane disappeared, her granddaughter was “highly upset and emotional”--possibly because Diane’s parents were planning to visit her later that year. (According to Fred, Diane "hated" her mother, and her father had caused her a great deal of pain.) Diane was so anxious to avoid this reunion, she asked Fred to persuade them not to come. On the other hand, Fred stated that when he last saw his wife, she was in an “unusually good mood.”
A friend of Diane’s named Sue Stampe told a reporter that everyone who knew the couple was baffled. “We’ve all talked to the police and with each other, and we don’t know what to think,” she said. Stampe added that in the last letter Diane sent her, “I never heard anyone be so happily married. But sometimes it’s hard to tell about Diane. She doesn’t always tell you what she really feels.”
On April 1, operating on the (not unreasonable) theory that “It’s usually the spouse who did it,” police asked Fred to take a polygraph test. He seemed perfectly willing to cooperate, but on April 3--shortly before Fred was to be polygraphed--the mystery took a sudden, shocking turn, when Fred’s corpse was discovered inside Diane’s car. He had been speeding down Highway 95, when he shot himself in the head. The car subsequently crashed down into a canyon.
Fred left behind two documents: a will and a suicide note. In the latter, he stated that he was killing himself because “I have given up hope of Diane’s returning alive…She was always warm and loving and supportive and fun. She was everything I’ve ever wanted and needed in a woman. In turn, I gave her the strength to cope with a world that terrified her...Having lived with her, I find that I cannot live without her, so by the time you read this, I will have taken my own life.”
Then, his note took an abrupt turn. About a month before Diane disappeared, a ten-year-old Nampa boy named Steven White was murdered. (The case was not solved until 2001.) Fred referenced the crime, stating “I challenge any sane, thinking person to spend one full day really observing this insane, absolutely absurd world we’re living in. Can you honestly say that you’re proud of it? That it makes any sense at all? That there is any justice in it? Diane Schultes and Steven Whites are being cut down left and right while the criminal elements (from the nickel-and-dime shoplifter to the politicians and businessmen that run the world) are free to ply their trades with virtually no fear of punishment.”
“Why does so much of the GNP of the world go into producing ships and war planes that are blown to bits when the same GNP could produce food, clothing, and other niceties of life? That is to say, productive rather than destructive items? Why is there so much war, crime, pollution, injustice, inflation, vandalism, etc.? I say it is because our society is disintegrating and doing so more rapidly each year.”
He gave no hint that he knew where Diane was, or how she had died.
Fred’s death was all the police needed to close the books on the case. Investigators reasoned that his premature certainty that his wife was dead, plus his own suicide, were both indicators of guilt. Nampa Police Detective Robert Shank admitted that his belief that Fred murdered his wife was based on “supposition and intuition,” rather than “factual proof,” but added that “on the little bits of evidence we picked up, we believe he killed her.” The “bits of evidence,” however, were frustratingly vague: a missing living room rug, a dent in the floor that could have been made by a bullet, and a four-inch hole cut from a drape.
Shank may have been correct. However, if Fred was entirely innocent, under the circumstances it would not have been illogical for him to conclude that his wife was the victim of foul play, and was never coming back. Considering that the key to the couple's P.O. box was missing, it is conceivable that Diane went for a walk to check on the box (something she did regularly) and along the way was kidnapped by a passing psychopath. There is another possibility, one apparently not considered by investigators: suicide. Perhaps when Fred realized she was mysteriously missing, he guessed she had left to kill herself, but for whatever reason, didn’t want to share his suspicions with authorities.
Diane Schulte’s fate remains a complete mystery, and at this late date, it is a riddle that probably will never be solved.