A 31-year-old Staff Sergeant has been missing from Goodfellow Air Force Base since Tuesday evening, his family reports. Stephen Burpee went to work that afternoon and was supposed to meet with his wife Rikki Burpee for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training at a local gym afterwards, but he never showed up, his mother in law Cheryl Rossetto reports. Burpee’s vehicle, a blue Jeep 4X4 with Missouri plates and mud tires, is also missing, she said.
Burpee’s last message to wife came at 2:21 p.m., she said. The message read: “I have [fire] training after work. I’ll meet you at the gym when I’m done,” she said. Mrs. Burpee has also since spoken to her husband’s coworkers, who said he was talking about going to the gym that evening over lunch.
Burpee was supposed to meet with his wife shortly after 6:00 p.m., and she estimates that he should have been leaving 10-15 minutes after 6:00 because he’d forgotten his wallet at the fire academy and had to turn around and go back. That was the last time he was seen, she said.
Never did he indicate that he would not be meeting her at the gym, Rossetto said, nor had the couple had any altercation that could explain his disappearance.
“Even if he was going to cancel on her at the gym, he would have texted her,” Rossetto said. “He’s one of these guys that walks around with his phone constantly texting and there’s been absolutely not contact at all from his cell phone.”
Wednesday morning, when Burpee still had not returned home and failed to show up to work, the military came knocking on the Burpees’ door. Steve Burpee is considered AWOL.
His wife Rikki has since filed a missing persons report and has spent tireless hours conducting her own search, Rossetto said.
“My daughter has been driving up and down roads with friends searching for his vehicle,” she said. “It would stick out like a sore thumb.”
Since his disappearance Tuesday evening, no transactions have been made on any of his credit or bankcards, Burpee said, nor has anyone spotted his vehicle. She said he usually has to plug in his cell phone by about 7:00 p.m. each day and that he does not have a car charger.
“He hasn’t spent any money. How is a person gone from his home, you know? What is he eating? Where is he staying? It’s not him. I don’t feel good about the situation at all.”
Burpee has been in the U.S. Army for 12.5 years, his wife said. She described him as a dedicated soldier and doesn’t believe he could up and leave his job. The Burpees also have a 7-year-old son. The family moved to San Angelo in January for the second time because Burpee is stationed here. Their families are both from Idaho, his wife said, and they have no relatives in the area with whom he could be staying.
Mrs. Burpee says she cannot think of a single reason that he would leave, and says that his coworkers have also described his behavior as perfectly normal on Tuesday.
“I have a couple different theories [about what could have happened to him], so I really don’t know,” she said. “There’s always that he could have gotten in an accident and he’s somewhere where nobody can find him, or there’s always that he got involved with a bad crowd and something went wrong there. I know San Angelo—the drug problem in this town. I really don’t know.”
In 2013, Burpee had experimented with a wide variety of drugs over a short span of time, his wife explained. During that same time frame he was having suicidal thoughts and began seeing a psychiatrist and committed himself to the army substance abuse program. She said that he graduated the program in August and to the best of her knowledge has not used since he completed the program. He hasn’t mentioned any suicidal tendencies in well over a year, she said.
Steve Burpee is approximately 6 ft. tall, has a shaved head and sleeve tattoos down both arms. He has a scar in the center of his chin, blue eyes and light brown hair. His wife describes him as a gym brat and sports nut, who likes to go out and socialize downtown on the weekends.
If you have any information on the disappearance or whereabouts of Steve Burpee or his Jeep, contact the San Angelo Police Department. Anonymous tips may be given at 1-855-TIPS-247.