Where is Theresa? Warren woman's family clings to hope as search stretches nearly 12 weeks
When the Electric Forest music festival came and went with no sign of Theresa DeKeyzer, everyone knew it was bad.
All the scenarios that would have explained a disappearance of her own making — that Theresa wanted to check out for a while, or she was on a binge and would resurface, or she really wanted to scare her boyfriend, Scott — became wishful thinking, foolhardy even.
"There is no way she was going to miss Electric Forest," said Marie DeKeyzer, 50, in the monotone voice of a mother flatlined by her daughter vanishing nearly 12 eternal weeks ago.
"I have her ticket," she said. She regards it as tangible evidence that wherever Theresa is, it's not where she wants to be.
Theresa DeKeyzer of Warren has been missing since the early morning hours of June 16. The last person to see her alive was boyfriend Scott Wobbe of Westland, who said he dropped her off four blocks from her home near Nine Mile and Van Dyke, a move that did not win him any fans.
"No one who cares about anyone would drop a girl off at Nine and Van Dyke while it's still dark," said Theresa's sister, Sandy DeKeyzer.
Since that morning, Theresa has not used her cellphone or accessed her bank account. She never picked up her paycheck at Tim Hortons.
As soon as they discovered 22-year-old Theresa was missing, family and friends posted MISSING fliers all over Warren, Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores. A Facebook page set up to spread the word has been shared more than 75,000 times.
A couple of weeks into Theresa's disappearance, several local bands volunteered at "An Acoustic Evening for Theresa," a benefit at a Hamtramck bar that raised $4,000. A crowd-funding site raised an additional $4,000 that the family used to hire private investigators. More recently, the family is selling T-shirts to fund the private investigation.
Warren police have tracked numerous tips related to Theresa, none of which have panned out. At least a dozen sightings turned out to be women who only looked an awful lot like Theresa. Special ops crews canvassed several square-mile areas, including streets frequented by hookers and dope houses in Detroit, finding nothing. The only security cameras near where Theresa was dropped off — a KFC and Sunoco gas station — do not film as far as Lozier Street, where she got out of the car.
"The investigation is still ongoing," said Detective Sgt. Stephen Mills of the Warren Police Department. "But in my 19 years, this is the first time I've come up against a dead end like this."
As of June, a total of 10,058 missing person cases remained active in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons system database. Of those cases, 369 missing persons are from Michigan.
On June 15, authorities were called to Theresa's home when, according to police records, Wobbe in a Jack Daniel's-fueled rage dragged Theresa by her shirt out of his car and then punched her in the face, sending her backward on her front lawn. By the following morning, she had disappeared.
On July 2, Wobbe was arrested for violating probation by assaulting Theresa. The probation stemmed from a conviction in February for aggravated assault and drug charges that occurred in Midland County.
The following day, July 3, Warrenpolice searched Wobbe's red brick house on Joy Road in Westland with cadaver dogs. In court documents, officers reported observing "drag marks" in the "yard and adjoining wooded city/county property," suggesting that "possibly a human body was moved on the property while incapacitated." Still, police say they found no evidence that would show Wobbe harmed Theresa.
Police did find various illegal drugs, however, and Wobbe now sits in the Midland County Jail facing drug charges.
On July 24, when the body of a young woman was found in a ditch in Armada Township, everyone froze until police called to say it wasn't Theresa. (It turned out to be 14-year-old murder victim April Millsap.) While police have tried to allay Marie DeKeyzer's worst fears ("at least she hasn't shown up in a morgue"),the not-knowing is hardly consoling. So, Marie DeKeyzer hopes against hope. But every day that passes with no word from Theresa, her heart breaks again and again.
A 'free spirit' and 'hippie'
Theresa is the fifth of Marie and Bill DeKeyzer's eight children: Ron, 30; Sandy, 29; Leah, 27; Christina, 24; Michelle, 20; Gabrielle, 17; and John Paul, 15. The children were raised in Eastpointe and later St. Clair Shores. Bill and Marie divorced about eight years ago. Bill died in 2010 from cardiac arrest. He was 45.
Theresa is very close to her sisters, particularly Christina and Michelle.
"She is my best friend. I did everything with her," Michelle said. "We talked on the phone every day." Which is why the family runs through all the possibilities of where Theresa could be and what happened. "She would not do this to us," Michelle said firmly. "There is no way she would not try and contact at least one of us."
Described as "a free spirit" who "wears her heart on her sleeve" and fashioning herself as a "hippie," Theresa's family admits it's possible she ran away. "But it would be so unlike her," said sister Leah. "If she was running away, she would tell everybody: 'I'm taking a spiritual journey and I'm taking my crystals and I'll see you later!' "
In her bedroom in the home on Lozier Street, Theresa left behind her medical marijuana card, prescribed for depression/anxiety. A half-finished cigarette is perched in the notch of the black plastic ashtray. The cord of her plugged-in cellphone charger stretches across her bed like a stray. Not the scene of someone who knew they were going to be gone for awhile.
Concerned about sex trafficking, her mother concedes she went on backpage.com half hoping, half dreading. It's a website where prostitutes solicit services and post photos. "I forced myself," she said.
And while no one would deny Theresa liked her party drugs, private detectives hired by the family say she does not fit the profile of a hard-core addict. "She never asked us for money," Leah said. "She never did anything to make us mad."
Co-workers at Tim Hortons at Nine Mile and Harper in St. Clair Shores, where she worked for the last two years, described Theresa "as a very nice girl. Always on time, always did her job."
Homeschooled until she went to Kelly Middle School in the seventh grade, it took her five years to graduate from Lakeview High School. Academics weren't the problem — she was smart and got good grades when she applied herself, but her family said she'd much rather cut class and smoke weed.
Still, one high school friend, Kathleen Barolo, 22, of Sterling Heights said: "I didn't see any part of Theresa that was unstable. She was very much against heroin. She had an ex-boyfriend who fell into deeper drugs and she left him because of it. … The only thing wrong with Theresa was Scott. I couldn't stand him. A lot of people couldn't. He knew it and Theresa knew it."
Wobbe's past, present
Friends say Theresa met Wobbe, 37, more than three years ago at a techno music party put on by Nightsneak Entertainment Inc., an event production company that puts on rave parties. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center, raves are characterized by "techno music, high entrance fees and extensive drug use. … Moreover, many club owners and promoters appear to promote the use of drugs — especially MDMA (Ecstasy) and ketamine (Special K). They provide bottled water and sports drinks to manage hyperthermia and dehydration, and pacifiers to prevent involuntary teeth clenching."
The fact that Wobbe was 15 years older than Theresa was not so much a red flag for Marie DeKeyzer as was the techno music/rave scene he brought with him. With Theresa's father dying in 2010, her mother said: "(Theresa) was leery about telling us about Scott, but that wasn't an automatic 'no' for me because I figured maybe she needs a more mature man."
The one and only time she met Scott was when he came to pick her daughter up. She told Theresa she was going out to the car with her to say hello. "It was a quick hi. He didn't get out of the car or anything."
Wobbe's criminal record dates to 1996 and includes breaking and entering, larceny, fugitive from justice, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, resisting and obstructing arrest, and sundry drug convictions.
He co-founded Nightsneak Entertainment in 2011 with his friend, James Wood, 31, of Westland. Wood also served time in prison for several drug convictions. Many of Nightsneak's parties are held on Friday nights at The Works on Michigan Avenue in Detroit.
Wobbe became particularly violent in August 2013 at Bass Camp, an electronic music festival held in Rothbury. According to court records, Wobbe walked up behind William "Billy" Keyes, 31, of Birmingham, who was standing at a urinal.
He twisted his arm behind his back, threw him to the ground and then stomped on him, breaking Keyes arm in so many places he had to have surgically implanted a 13½-inch titanium bar with 13 screws in it.
At the Mid-Michigan Medical Center, Keyes told police that he was likely assaulted because, a few months prior, he and Theresa had "messed around."
When Midland police went to arrest Wobbe at the Salt River Acres campground, he fought and had to be wrestled to the ground. He was charged with nine counts of assaulting two police officers, aggravated assault of Keyes and possession of ketamine and MDMA. In April, after some hefty plea bargaining, Wobbe was sentenced to three months in jail, to be served on weekends, court costs and two years' probation.
In a phone call to The Detroit News, Wobbe would not talk on the record. His attorney also refused to comment.
Scott's older brother, Brian Wobbe, describes his brother as "not an evil guy." Scott and Brian work together at Akron Tire Co. in Garden City, an auto mechanic shop started by their now-deceased father.
"Scott and I didn't always get along because of his lifestyle, but he would show up at work every day," Brian said.
When asked if his brother was violent, Brian Wobbe said: "Not that I ever saw. He had a mouth sometimes. But, in automotive repair, things hardly ever go smoothly. If a customer complained about something, he'd always back down and try to fix the situation."
Brian said he'd met Theresa half a dozen times. "She was young ... Alls I can say is she lived the same lifestyle he did. This whole thing has just been kind of crazy because I didn't expect anything like this would ever happen with Scott."
'God sent her to me'
Close to 5:30 p.m. June 15, Clara Wolfe said Scott Wobbe walked into her house on Lozier in Warren where she has rented a room to Theresa for a little over a year. He was carrying an open bottle of Jack Daniel's and was "so smashed" he knocked over a floor fan on his way to use the restroom.
Theresa was sitting in Scott's '78 Camaro, parked in the driveway. Police say Theresa refused to get out of the car and Wobbe dragged her out by her shirt. When Theresa — 5 feet, 7 inches tall, 125 pounds — got to her feet, she started pummeling him with her fists. Wobbe — 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 204 pounds — punched her in the face.
Neighbors bolted across the street to grab him, but he jumped in the car. Another neighbor rushed to Theresa with a bag of ice. "He fishtailed outta here," said Wolfe, 64. "He was like a maniac."
Wolfe met Theresa in December 2012 when the two were hospitalized at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. Despite the age difference, the two women got along famously. Theresa planted flowers for her out front. She'd drive Wolfe to bingo. Sometimes they'd cook breakfast for dinner.
"I tell everybody she's my goddaughter," Wolfe said. "She's no relation to me, but she's my goddaughter because God sent her to me."
"The thing about Scott was he'd say, 'I'm coming over to pick you up at 1 o'clock.' And he wouldn't come until 7 p.m. And she'd still be here waiting for him. I asked her once: 'Did he ever hit you?' And she said: 'No.' But the way she said it, I don't know."
When a police officer took pictures of Theresa's battered face, he urged her to see a detective the next day to file charges. "She told him, 'Don't worry, I will,' " Wolfe said. But that never happened.
Phone records obtained by Warren police show Theresa called Wobbe repeatedly that night, but he didn't pick up.
In a text conversation with a friend, it appears Theresa was intent on making him pay for what he did. She wrote: "My face got wrecked and now his wallet and reputation is about to get wrecked." Then, in a message intended for Scott but sent inadvertently to the friend, she wrote: "I need u to call me right (expletive) now before your life money and reputation gets (expletive) (expletive). U want warrants up until then? U better get on the phone real (expletive) quick."
Then: "OMG that was not for you. Please disregard."
When the friend asked if she was all right, Theresa replied: "No but I'm about to get a (expletive) load of money so it's all good. ... Basically the fate of another man's life is in my hands because of what he's done to me. I need to decide whether to put him in jail. Or forgive."
At about 11:30 that night, Wolfe said Theresa came and tapped her on the shoulder — she'd fallen asleep watching TV. "She said she was going up to the Sunoco gas station to get a pack of cigarettes. I'd forgotten to tell her that I'd already bought her a pack of cigarettes. I wish I had because that was the last time I ever saw her."
Wobbe told police he picked Theresa up from the gas station that night, and they went back to his house and made up. He said he dropped her off very early the following morning at Lozier and Nine Mile so he could get back to his job in Garden City on time. He purposely didn't drop her off at home, he said, because neither of them wanted the neighbors to know she had gone back to him.
Records show he phoned Theresa six times after she went missing and she never picked up. He told police: "Listen, I'm 37 years old. I know when somebody doesn't want to talk to me. She'll call me when she wants to."
Wobbe also said he gave her $1,000 to buy "supplies" for the Electric Forest event in Rothbury, a four-day outdoor music event featuring deejays, techno music and light shows. While Theresa was a no-show, Wobbe attended. Witnesses say he appeared to be enjoying himself.
After Theresa went missing, Wolfe said: "The cop asked me, was she ever a prostitute or a dancer? They have to ask those questions, you know, because she's so pretty.
"She's just a kid," she said through tears. "I can't stand it here without her."
Tips still coming in
Warren police have gone to the Midland County Jail at least twice to interview Wobbe. "Until we have located (Theresa), one way or another, no one is ruled out," said Mills. "We have definitely not closed that chapter."
Police say they continue to receive tips from Crimestoppers. "Our hope is that she is alive and may be partying with some friends, but it is very disconcerting that she hasn't used her phone or had any bank activities."
Theresa's family still meets weekly to pray the rosary together on her behalf. In the absence of any solid leads, theories and suppositions fill the void. Family members said they have heard everything from suspicious deaths within the rave community to private property up north, to which Wobbe had access. "We wonder if Theresa knew more than she should and what she meant by 'warrants' in that text," said Leah DeKeyzer.
All things considered, Theresa's high school friend Kathleen Barolo said what many are thinking but can't bear to put into words:
"This is serious. She's not hiding out anymore. They need to start looking for a body."