Bethany Decker Was Five Months Pregnant When She Vanished, And Her Case Wasn't Solved For 12 Years
Bethany Anne Decker was a 21-year-old college senior studying global and economic change when she went missing in early 2011.
Decker was married to an Army National Guard private and was mother to a 17-month-old son; she was also about three months pregnant with a second child. There was tension in Decker's life, however - her marriage was struggling, and she began an affair with a man named Ronald Roldan, whom she said was abusive. Then one day in late January, Decker seemingly disappeared without a trace.
Decker's case was seemingly cold until Roldan was charged in the attempted murder of another woman. In 2020, new evidence led to Roldan's arrest in Decker's disappearance, and he was sentenced to prison in 2023.
On January 29, 2011, Bethany Decker Requested An Extra Shift At Work But Never Arrived
The last known phone call Bethany Decker made was to the Carrabba's Grill in Centreville, VA, where she worked as a server. She called at 2:08 pm on January 29, 2011, to get her schedule and to take on an extra shift for that evening; however, Decker never showed up, which was highly unusual for her. Decker also stopped attending her classes at George Mason University, where she was in her final semester to complete a degree in global and economic change.
Messages were still being sent from Decker's Facebook account, but the authorities and the public would later learn Decker wasn't the one writing these messages that made her friends and family think she was safe.
Decker Had Just Returned From A Trip To Hawaii With Her Husband, Who Was On Leave
Decker's husband, Emile Decker, was a private with the Army National Guard and had been stationed in Afghanistan leading up to Decker's disappearance. At the time, he had recently come home on leave, and the couple had traveled to Hawaii, reportedly in an effort to patch up their marriage, which had become strained. They also took Kai, their 17-month-old son, on the trip, though he typically lived with Decker's mother while Decker attended college full-time.
The Deckers returned from their vacation on January 28, 2011, only a day before Bethany Decker was last seen. Emile Decker had gone to stay with his parents upon his return, and when he went to the airport to return to Afghanistan a few days later, his wife was not there to see him off; however, her absence was apparently not considered suspicious given the state of their marriage at the time.
Decker's Boyfriend, Ronald Roldan, Was The Last Person To See HerVideo: YouTube
Prior to her disappearance, Decker had begun dating a man named Ronald Roldan. The two lived together in an apartment with only Decker's name on the lease.
According to Roldan, on the day Decker disappeared, he spoke to her before leaving the apartment to withdraw cash from an ATM. While he was gone, he texted Decker at 4:01 pm and 4:31 pm letting her know that his two children, whom he'd had with an ex-girlfriend, would be staying with them for a few days. Decker never responded to these texts.
Roldan said that when he finally returned home, Decker was nowhere to be found; however, police began questioning Roldan's story when he was unable to describe what Decker had been wearing that day, as well as other basic details.
Authorities Found Decker's Passport And ID In Her Home, And Her Car Was In The Parking Lot
After Decker was reported missing, police searched her apartment on Orchard Grass Terrace in Ashburn, VA. Police found Decker's car still in the apartment complex's parking lot and no signs of forced entry. Inside the apartment, investigators discovered Decker's cellphone, wallet, passport, credit cards, and other personal items. They also noted that nothing was out of place and there was no sign of a struggle.
When Roldan's ex-girlfriend came to pick up her kids a few days after the 29th, she reportedly asked where Decker was. When Roldan told her he didn't know, his ex noted that Decker's car was still in the parking lot, but Roldan seemed unworried.
The keys to Decker's car were later found at Roldan's mother's home after investigators obtained a search warrant for the premises.
In February 2011, Roldan Began Messaging People As Decker Via Her Facebook Page
Another reason it took three weeks for Bethany Decker to be reported missing was that her Facebook account still appeared to be active. At the beginning of February 2011, messages were sent from Decker's Facebook account to both her husband and a friend; however, both Emile Decker and the friend considered the messages suspicious.
In particular, the person writing the messages couldn't give any details about the Hawaii trip the Decker family had returned from just days prior, nor could they provide other life facts Decker definitely would have known.
In 2020, investigators conducted an IP address search, which showed that the messages had all been sent from Ronald Roldan's computer in the days after Decker was last seen.
Decker's Family Reported Her Missing On February 19, 2011
Because Decker had extremely demanding work and school schedules, her family didn't worry at first when she stopped sending texts or making phone calls. In fact, she wasn't reported missing until three weeks after she was last seen.
Eventually, Decker's grandparents went to her apartment and discovered that her car was still in the parking lot and her personal belongings had been left behind. “We just had a feeling. We were concerned,” Decker's grandmother told reporters afterwards.
However, authorities noted that the keys to her car were missing, which was odd considering the car had been sitting in the parking lot, unmoved, for weeks.