Vanished in the night: The case of Scott and Amy Fandel
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
A child going missing is always cause for concern, especially when they’ve been unaccounted for for several weeks, months or even years. But to have two children in the same family go missing at the same time and not be heard from for decades is perhaps even more devastating. Let’s talk about Scott and Amy Fandel, who haven’t been publically seen or heard from in over 40 years.
Scott Curtis Fandel was born on January 23, 1965. Not much is known about his biological father, but his mother, Margaret, married a man named Roger Fandel when Scott was very young. On August 25, 1970, Margaret and Roger Fandel welcomed their daughter, Amy Lee Fandel.
But Margaret and Roger’s marriage reportedly wasn’t very good. In January 1978, Roger left the family and moved from their home in Alaska to Arizona. After this, Margaret invited her sister, Cathy Schonfelder, to move in with her, 13-year-old Scott and 8-year-old Amy in their cabin in Sterling, Alaska.
For the Fandel/Schonfelder household, the night of September 4, 1978 was a lively one. According to Terry Schonfelder, Margaret and Cathy’s brother, the women wanted to celebrate. I assume their celebration was related to Margaret’s divorce, but I’m not 100 % sure.
Along with Scott and Amy, the women spent the evening at a restaurant/bar called Good Time Charlie’s. (More on this place later.) Around 10 pm, the family arrived back at their cabin to drop off the kids. Then Margaret and Cathy went back to the bar.
After getting home, Scott and Amy went to visit their neighbors, the Luptons, who had children around their age who they often played with. Another neighbor saw lights on in the Fandel’s cabin around 11:45 pm.
Margaret and Cathy arrived home between 2 and 3 am. Right away, they noticed several red flags. Despite Scott and Amy’s fear of the dark, all the lights in the cabin were off. There was a pot of boiling water on the stove, along with tomatoes and a box of macaroni — one of Scott’s favorite snacks. At the time, the women didn’t think too much of it — they thought the kids had already gone to bed or decided to stay the night with the Luptons. So they went to bed themselves.
Margaret left for work the next morning around 8:30. Cathy woke up around noon and wasn’t too alarmed when she didn’t see the kids, thinking they must already be at school. Margaret would try to call the school at some point that day, looking for Amy, but was told neither of her children showed up. She was worried but her boss wouldn’t let her leave work.
After school, the Lupton children arrived at the Fandel’s cabin, asking for Scott and Amy. When Cathy learned her niece and nephew had never shown up for school, she called Margaret and then the police.
I couldn’t find a lot of information about the investigation. Only that police questioned a lot of people and that bullet casings were found outside the cabin. It’s not clear if these casings were related to Scott and Amy’s disappearance, or if they were from someone in the area who just liked to shoot.
theories and speculation
But despite the lack of publically available information in this case, there has been quite a bit of speculation. There are a handful of prominent theories I want to discuss here.
The first theory is that Scott and Amy were abducted by a stranger. There were reportedly a lot of…let’s say unsavory characters in the area. Did someone, maybe even a sexual predator, see the kids at the bar and decide to follow them home? Or maybe they somehow realized the kids were home alone — or would be home alone — and it was a crime of opportunity. I also found talk of a man who was trying to open a hotel in Anchorage possibly being involved.
But if Scott and Amy were taken by a predator, who was the intended target? Was one child taken and the other in the wrong place at the wrong time? What happened to them after the kidnapping? And where are they now?
“friend” of their mom’s
The next theory is that they were kidnapped by a “friend” or acquaintance of their mom. I use the word “friend” rather loosely here. According to people who believe this theory, Margaret Fandel liked to party a lot and let some people into her house she might not have known very well. Was one of these people responsible for Scott and Amy’s disappearance?
There were no signs of a struggle inside the cabin. Other than the boiling water, food and lights, not much seemed out of place. Did Scott and Amy go willingly with someone they knew — or at least recognized — even if they didn’t know them very well? Or did they not try to fight back because they were threatened?
On a similar note, a Websleuths user speculated that Scott and Amy had to go somewhere unexpectedly. Maybe they needed something else for their food or one of them got hurt — and they had to leave the house, but met with foul play while they were out. Either of these theories could explain why there was food left out but no evidence of a struggle.
The next theory is that a family member of Scott and Amy is responsible for their disappearance. The name that comes up the most is Roger Fandel — Margaret’s recent ex-husband, Amy’s biological father and Scott’s surrogate father who had raised him from a young age. Remember, Margaret and Roger’s marriage had reportedly been pretty bad. Did he kidnap his own children out of spite or to hurt Margaret, or maybe in some custody dispute? And, if he did, what happened to them?
Terry Schonfelder is highly suspicious of his former brother-in-law. In 2010, he commented on a websleuths thread about the case saying it might have had to do with a drug deal gone wrong. In June 2020, he gave an interview with the Crime over Coffee podcast, which you can listen to here. In this interview, Terry claimed Roger hasn’t really been involved in investigation. He also recalled an incident not too long after Scott and Amy went missing where Roger confronted Margaret with a gun and said ‘they’re after me, not you.’ Terry’s not sure who ‘they’ is referring to. He believes Amy is still alive but Scott was killed shortly after the kids went missing.
Another reported incident involves Cathy Nichols, who was Roger’s live-in girlfriend at the time of the disappearances. Years later, Cathy Nichols allegedly told Roger’s uncle that she would tell him what happened to Scott and Amy in exchange for $5,000. Terry believes she genuinely does know what happened.
Another Websleuths user claims they were threatened by people from Roger’s family. According to this user, they started looking into the case and Roger and his family weren’t too happy about this. They even found out where this person lived and their phone number, even though neither of these things were publically listed. Roger Fandel was considered a suspect at one point, but he was never charged.
In the Crime over Coffee interview, Terry briefly discussed Roger’s uncle Herman Fandel. Herman and Roger Fandel were already at odds, and Roger even convinced police to dig up Herman’s yard — either because he was suspicious or maybe out of spite.
criticism of mom
The next theory isn’t really a theory, but something I saw a lot of discussion on and wanted to address. There has been quite a bit of criticism of Scott and Amy’s mom, Margaret Fandel and their aunt, Cathy Schonfelder. People have questioned why they didn’t check on the kids when they got home, or why they assumed they were asleep or at a neighbor’s when there were so many signs that something was off. Others suggested they were drunk and didn’t think about it; others still insist it was a different era and there wasn’t as much fear about kidnapping and child predators at the time.
One blogger did some digging on Good Time Charlie’s, the bar that Margaret and Cathy took Scott and Amy to that night. According to this blogger’s research, this bar is actually a strip club. A quick online search does bring up a similar establishment in Soldotna, just about ten miles down the road. It’s not clear if this is the same establishment the Fandels went to in 1978.
I haven’t seen anyone explicitly state that Margaret Fandel was responsible for her children’s disappearances, and I’m certainly not accusing anyone else of anything. I just wanted to bring this up because it’s pretty prominent in online discussions of this case, and it would feel weird to just ignore it.
Amy Fandel Johnson
One last thing I want to mention is a Facebook user named Amy Fandel Johnson. Terry Schonfelder found her via Roger Fandel’s friend list, but I’m not sure if he was the first person to notice her. This woman was reportedly born the same year as Amy Fandel and looked a lot like her. However, she shut her page down after it started getting a lot of attention from people interested in the case.
Scott and Amy Fandel were last seen on September 4, 1978 in Sterling, Alaska. Their case is classified as non family abduction.
Scott Curtis Fandel was 13 years old when he disappeared. He was 4 feet 11 inches tall and 74 pounds, with brown hair and blue or hazel eyes. He was last seen wearing a striped t-shirt and jeans. If he were alive today, he would be 56 years old.
Amy Lee Fandel was 8 years old when she disappeared. She was four feet tall and 52 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a sweater, a red and blue vest and striped jeans. If she were alive today, would be 50 years old.
Terry Schonfelder says he thinks this case will only be solved if someone decides to come forward. I’ve covered cases before that were solved because of information people gave years later, so hopefully that will be the case here someday as well.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Scott and Amy Fandel, you can contact the Alaska State Troopers Missing Persons Unit at 1-907-262-4453. You can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST (843-5678).