In November 1985, Dexter Stefonek was about to leave his son's farm near Corbett, Oregon, for a long road trip. Dexter was a 67-year-old widower from Wisconsin. He had come to stay with his son a few months earlier, after his wife, Vivian, died. But according to Dexter's son, David, as the first anniversary of Vivian's death approached, Dexter was ready to go back home:
"He came out and we thought that he'd probably spend the winter with us. And then it got to be a difficult time of year for him and I tried to convince him not to leave. Winter had already set in, there's really nothing he needed to go back to Wisconsin for. That's the last I saw him."
Dexter left his son's home early on Monday, November 18, 1985. He told his son that to save time, he would pull into rest areas when he got tired, instead of looking for motels.
On Tuesday morning, local Sheriff Jim George was alerted to a car on fire at the Bad Route rest area in Montana:
"When I arrived at the rest area and pulled in behind the vehicle, the inside was completely engulfed in flames. I went over and talked to the state highway department. They informed me they didn't see any person inside the vehicle."
The car belonged to Dexter Stefonek. A little over a day had passed since he left Oregon. The Sheriff's Department immediately searched the area. There was no trace of Dexter and no obvious signs of foul play.
Sheriff Jim George brought in an arson expert to examine the car. The fire had been set deliberately, using gasoline. Sheriff George also noticed that the driver's seat was pushed back all the way:
"Dexter Stefonek, being a short man, would have had the seat all the way up to the front to drive it, so it had to be a larger man driving that vehicle, six foot or larger."
With no other clues, Sheriff George needed witnesses and a timeline. The car was discovered just after 10 a.m. Nearly two hours earlier, Fred Siegle, custodian of the Bad Route rest area, had arrived for work as usual:
"I go to the rest area between 8:00 and 8:30. There was a pick-up parked there, but there was no one around. I really didn't pay much attention to it."
About fifteen minutes later, Clyde Mitchell, a highway maintenance supervisor, stopped at the rest area:
"Fred's pick-up was there and a white Chevy pick-up facing southeast. I saw Arizona plates on the back, walked around the complete outfit and noticed it was a four-wheel drive Chevy with blue trim and a cowcatcher on the front. At the time, I didn't think there was anything suspicious about it."
Soon after, Clyde Mitchell left to complete his regular rounds. Fifteen minutes later, Fred Siegle saw Dexter Stefonek's brown Plymouth Horizon pull in. According to Fred, the driver got out, carrying two large plastic containers:
"He was around six feet tall, between 35 and 40 years old, and had real light skin, no sign of anything wrong with him."
Fred left the rest stop. Within thirty minutes, Dexter's car was ablaze.
The case went nowhere for nearly four months. Then, local residents Bill and Cindy Shaw made a routine run to a landfill 17 miles from the rest area. Little did Cindy know that she and Bill were stepping into a crime scene:
"My husband and I came out to dump some garbage and there was a wallet laying on the ground. And it still had the driver's license in it, it was current. So I handed it to Bill and we just started looking around, and there was a bunch of stuff in the dump that didn't belong there, that hadn't been there when we were there before. And we kind of tried to see if there was anything else that didn't quite belong in the dump."
Bill wasn't prepared for what he found when he picked up a boot: a man's foot, partially hidden beneath a mattress. The ID of the body came as no surprise. It was Dexter Stefonek. He had been beaten and shot twice in the head.
Lance Silha was the coroner in Dawson County, Montana:
"There were marks on his hands, there was damage done to his neck and throat area, and he had a bruise or damaged area on the front of part of his skull that was probably caused by a beating or some type of injury of that sort."
Some of the evidence didn't quite add up. There was still money in Dexter's suitcase, making robbery an unlikely motive. Also, Dexter's clothing was found scattered around the area, but it was in good condition, as if it had just only recently been discarded. But according to the coroner, Dexter's body seemed to have been in the landfill for months:
"The condition of the body would indicate that it had probably been in the dumpsite from the time that the car was found burning, until the time it was discovered."
One week later, the authorities found a final clue in the men's room at the Bad Route rest area: a small line of graffiti written in pencil. It began with the words "Hot Jock." Police have not released the entire message, but believe it may be linked to Dexter Stefonek's murder. Coroner Silha believed the killer wrote it there for the police to find:
"My own theory is that someone wanted us to see it. Hot Jock could be a CB handle. It referred to 'shot.' It had 'Wisconsin' in the graffiti and a date indicating November."
Police have only two clues that might identify Dexter Stefonek's killer: the description of the suspect's vehicle and the sketchy description of the suspect himself. The vehicle was a white Chevy 4 x 4 with a wide blue horizontal stripe. It had a white camper shell top and a cattle guard on the front bumper. It also had Arizona plates, with a Phoenix license plate holder.
The suspect is middle aged, at least six feet tall, light-complected and clean shaven. He may use the nickname or CB handle, Hot Jock.