WICHITA, Kan. — At 16 years old, April Susanne Wiss was a typical teenager desperate for liberation.
Born on Sept. 1, 1983, Wiss grew into a tall, rebellious, fiercely independent teenager. Her mother, Gloria “Dee” Clasen, has said in recent years that Wiss did not want to abide by the rules and “did what she wanted.”
My daughter, now 28, was similar to Wiss as a teenager. She hated living at home and following house rules. My daughter angrily rebelled during her teen years by abusing drugs, getting arrested twice, having no interest in school, etc. It was a challenging and dark period in our lives. Thankfully, my daughter has overcome all of that and now has two children of her own.
Teenagers think being an adult and living on one’s own has to be better than living at home. No one can tell you what to do or how to live your life, so they assume.
But when reality hits and they learn how tough it is to be an adult, they’d give anything to be a teenager again.
Wiss, 16, was treading down a dark path, so Clasen arranged for her daughter to live with a friend at River Walk Apartments on Marion Road for a few months to experience living independently. The arrangement was going well, and Wiss seemed generally happy with it.
I support Clasen’s decision to allow her daughter to live on her own. If I had that option back then, I would have done the same thing. Live and learn, as they say.
But, what came next, Wiss’ family never saw coming.
On Jan. 11, 2000, Wiss left her apartment wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and a navy blue nylon jacket. Her friend saw Wiss walking toward Pawnee and Broadway between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
Wiss took her wallet, pager, and apartment key with her, leaving the lights and TV on and a freshly baked cake in the kitchen. Wiss left behind $150 and the rest of her belongings.
By all appearances, Wiss had every intention of returning home. She has never been seen again.
Wichita police initially considered Wiss ran away to avoid testifying but now believe she disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Clasen thinks someone abducted her daughter, possibly for human trafficking.
Wichita is a large metropolitan area with nearly 400,000 people, and like any large city, human trafficking occurs here. According to KAKE, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says a recent human trafficking operation in Wichita, Independence, Missouri, and Kansas City, Missouri, resulted in the rescue of 31 victims of human trafficking — including 14 missing children — for sexual exploitation.”
Officials were preparing to charge 82 suspects with multiple crimes at the time of the article, including commercial human trafficking and sodomy.
The reality is that trafficking exists, and that could be what happened to Wiss.
There might be another explanation for Wiss’ disappearance, and it is not any less frightening.
A Feb. 5, 2000 story in The Wichita Eagle stated that Wiss was a key witness in a felony criminal trial scheduled to begin on Monday, Feb. 7, 2000, nearly a month after she vanished. The case was about a year old and still under investigation when Wiss disappeared, according to The Eagle. Clasen said Wiss reluctantly agreed to testify. Authorities are unsure if Wiss’ disappearance had anything to do with it. However, detectives have not ruled out the possibility that someone killed Wiss in retaliation for testifying.
Wiss has never been found. Anyone with information regarding Wiss’ disappearance can call Detective Blake Mumma of the Wichita Police Department at (316) 268-4181.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I tried finding info on the trial in which Wiss was set to testify but found nothing. The Charley Project says it was a statutory rape case. It sounds like Wiss was a witness, not the victim. Still, there have been people killed before they could take the stand, so I think it’s possible here, too.
I also think trafficking is a good theory. Wiss left home with every intention of returning, so maybe a person(s) grabbed her as she walked. I have to wonder why she left home between 10 and 10:30 p.m. She was not going to be gone long, and she took her wallet, so I think she was going to a convenience store or similar business — a place where she needed a few items, maybe. There is an ice cream and dairy store near the apartment complex, so perhaps she went to get ice cream or a drink.
There is also a Walmart Supercenter even closer to her home, so that is another possibility. Traffickers scope out their victims in places like Walmart and Target. They could have spotted her at Walmart and followed her out of the store and on her walk home.
Another theory is that she went to meet someone she knew, and that person abducted and killed her.
I want to know more about this “friend” who lived in the apartment. It sounds to me like this woman was Clasen’s friend. Could something have happened between the friend and Wiss? I don’t know if she is the friend who saw Wiss walking toward Pawnee and Broadway or if it was another friend.
Wiss was a tall girl, standing 6-feet-tall. I don’t think it would have been an easy feat for one person to kidnap her.
What do you think happened to April Wiss?