What Happened to Lauren Spierer? ‘College Girl, Missing’ Seeks Answer (Exclusive)

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There’s something about a missing-person case that captures our national attention. And when that case goes unsolved for years, our fascination only intensifies. What happened the night of the crime? Why can’t the authorities find the culprit? And, whether we admit it or not, we all ask ourselves: Could this happen to me?

When 20-year-old college sophomore Lauren Spierer from Edgemont, N.Y. went missing in the early morning hours of June 3, 2011, in Bloomington, Ind., it captivated the country. She had been out partying with friends and, even after she became so intoxicated that she had trouble remaining upright, still went home alone. Spierer was last seen leaving a friend’s apartment around 4:30 a.m. and that’s where the trail goes cold.

Now, investigative journalist Shawn Cohen has a new book coming out that breaks nearly a decade of silence on the case. In College Girl, Missing: The True Story of How a Young Woman Disappeared in Plain Sight, out May 28 from Sourcebooks, new testimony and Cohen’s firsthand investigation seeks to answer the question: what really happened to Lauren Spierer?

Read more about the case below, in an exclusive excerpt shared with PEOPLE.

‘College Girl, Missing’ by Shawn Cohen.

Sourcebooks


CHAPTER 3 

Lauren tried walking again. She made it just a few steps before she dropped her wristlet. She then fell again — this time forward, unable to raise her hands for protection as she fell flat to the pavement. 

She got up, then fell again. 

At this point, standing near a dumpster in the alley, Rossman helped Lauren onto a curb. He whipped out his iPhone and, in what turned out to be the final moment of them captured on video, he placed a phone call to a trusted friend from back home in Sharon, Mass. It was 2:55 a.m. when Rossman dialed this friend’s number. He paced in the alley as the phone rang, hoping they’d pick up. It went straight to voice mail. 

Wolff was the person who’d usually answer that call. It wasn’t uncommon for him to hear one of Lauren’s friends telling him she was too intoxicated and needed someone to take her home. On more than a dozen prior occasions, he rushed out to get her. 

But on this night, Rossman didn’t cede control. After his attempt to reach a trusted girlfriend back home, he picked Lauren back up, throwing her over his shoulder again. Her eye blackening from the face-plant, Lauren hung on to this relative stranger as he carried her fireman-style the remaining block up to his townhouse on the corner of Eleventh and Morton St., two doors down from the site of the pregame at Rosenbaum’s. 

This is where the story gets hazy. 

Back in 2011, there were no security cameras at the 5 North Townhomes. And at that hour, just after 3 a.m., there were no known witnesses walking around. So what happened inside the townhouses to Lauren that night can only be told by the four young men who were there — Beth, Rossman, Rosenbaum, and his hometown visitor Bleznak. 

Rossman would later claim through his lawyer that he suffered a memory lapse from the punch at Smallwood, and Bleznak was purportedly asleep. That left Rosenbaum and Beth as the exclusive narrators of what turned out to be Lauren’s final hour before she disappeared. 

They spoke to detectives, and later separately with private investigators, with their lawyers present, and described themselves as doing their noble best to help a girl who was in dire shape. 

But their stories notably diverged, and in Rosenbaum’s case, evolved. 

The two witnesses couldn’t consistently answer how Lauren got from Rossman’s townhouse two doors down to Rosenbaum’s or what Lauren did once she was inside. And there was another crucial question—who made the two calls placed around 4 a.m. from Rosenbaum’s cell phone? One went to Lauren’s friend David Rohn, whom she walked over to the pregame party with, and the other to Scott Schwartz, who hosted the basketball game dinner gathering earlier in the night. 

Detectives and internet sleuths have obsessed over these questions for more than a decade, as that single night in early June of 2011 was left frozen in time. During her night out, she encountered dozens of witnesses, was spotted by security cameras and left evidence behind — until she reached those townhomes, where she disappeared without a trace. It begged the question: Did Lauren ever make it out of Rosenbaum’s alive? 

The young men all became “persons of interest” in Lauren’s disappearance. 

So did her boyfriend Wolff, who had been waiting all night to hear from her and told investigators he was asleep by that time. But as the Spierers’ private investigators later chased down countless leads from jailhouse tips to psychics, they continued to return to the boyfriend the family once welcomed into their home.

In the midst of a rift with Lauren, he was unaccounted for during her final hours. The discrepancies in the other young men’s accounts led Lauren’s family to later sue them for their daughter’s wrongful death. In that courtroom, the students’ lawyers would argue that their clients had no responsibility to care for Lauren once she left Rosenbaum’s townhouse.

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And according to their story, she did leave. Rosenbaum claimed he made Lauren, inside his apartment, walk a straight line to demonstrate her sobriety, and that she passed his test. Though she had no shoes on and was having trouble standing, he claimed, she insisted on returning home. 

During one interview, Rosenbaum said he watched her walk out his front door. He called after her, continuing to ask her if she was really okay to walk home, but she swore she was. 

But in another account, Rosenbaum said he actually walked upstairs to his second-floor Juliet balcony to watch Lauren and called out to her, “Text me when you find your phone.” 

Rosenbaum says he watched her walk all the way to the intersection of 11th and College without incident, past a construction site toward College Avenue on her way back to Smallwood. The massive holes in that site would be filled with cement the next morning. Garbage trucks would crisscross the city, emptying dumpsters and hauling trash to landfills outside of town. 

Her body would never be found. 

In a follow-up interview, Rosenbaum recalled a possible shadowy figure approaching Lauren at the corner, fueling speculation that she may have been abducted. Months later, recounting the night to a suspicious friend of hers, Rosenbaum was adamant that she had left his townhouse and the real killer was out there somewhere. A former prosecutor would later claim that Lauren was inside the “danger zone” of a man who would be convicted of murdering a female IU student four years later. In the early days of the investigation into Lauren’s disappearance that night, a witness approached police to report a woman screaming around 4 a.m. 

Still, though, by Rosenbaum’s account he never offered to accompany her home. As his lawyer would claim in court, Lauren “just walked out.” 

This is the last description we have of 20-year old Lauren Spierer from Scarsdale, N.Y: missing her phone, shoes, and wallet; nursing a black eye and a possible head injury; three blocks from home and a half hour from sunrise; into the purpling pre-dawn of her nearly deserted Midwest college town, walking alone and determined to reach her destination. 

The question is whether you believe it.

Lauren Spierer.
Official Lauren Spierer Updates from Her Family/Facebook

CHAPTER 15 

It started with a conversation with a former BPD investigator, who’d gone through the entire file back in 2011. He mentioned a detail from a video never released to the public, taken after Rossman and Lauren went upstairs to the girls’ apartment at 10th and College to knock on their door, and came back down. 

“She’s on the curb sitting. She disappears off video. And then the gentleman comes back, talking on the phone, walking back and forth. What do college students do when they’re panicked? They probably call their buddy or something. He was walking nervously back and forth.” 

The detail astonished me. Who did Corey Rossman call that night? At 3 a.m.? Around the time Lauren had collapsed on the pavement? During a period Rossman would later claim to have no memory of? 

With some more digging, I got my hands on the phone records and found the number Rossman called. At 2:09 a.m., he called and got no response. At 2:55 a.m., he tried again, but got no response. 

Then at 2:22 p.m. that afternoon, as the search for Lauren was beginning, Rossman called the number yet again and this time got an answer. The call lasted three minutes. I had to find this person. 

First, I looked up the possible owners of the phone number. The last name was Bullens, from Rossman’s home town of Sharon, Mass. Simple computer research showed the caller appeared to be a young man around Corey Rossman’s age: Don Bullens, Jr., or his younger sister Brooke. 

It seemed more likely Rossman had spoken to the older brother, as they were closer in age—only a year apart as opposed to four. 

But a few days later, I was able to get a friend of Rossman’s on the phone. He defended Rossman, in a way. “The only negative thing I could say is if he was drunk, he would be a little aggressive and try to make a move on a chick. But, I mean, a lot of guys do that,” the young man told me. “I wouldn’t say he did it in like a rapist, creepy way, but he could be a little aggressive. But I feel like a lot of guys are like that. And some girls like that, too, honestly.”

We hit a bump when I asked about the relationship between Rossman and Don Bullens, Jr. It turns out they weren’t friends at all. Not nearly as close as Rossman and Don’s younger sister Brooke. 

“But Brooke is four years younger than him,” I said. “She is,” he said, “but he had a thing for younger girls.” Rossman and Brooke, according to this friend, used to party late into the night; 3 a.m. get-togethers were typical. Rossman, Brooke, and their friend Dana were described as a “trio” who constantly partied together in high school and college. Dana struggled with addiction issues, and passed away in 2021. But it appeared Rossman and Brooke had kept in touch over the years. 

At 2:09 in the morning all those years ago, while he was at Sports with Lauren — maybe as he stepped out and asked Rosenbaum to keep an eye on her — he called Brooke, a high school girl from back home that he partied with. And then, at 2:55, as Lauren Spierer sat on the curb next to him, swaying and unable to walk on her own power, Rossman called Brooke again. They were the only two calls he made that night. 

Why? 

After my repeated calls to this number went unanswered, I decided to hit the road to knock on her door, a four-hour drive from my home in Brooklyn. I was off to find Brooke Bullens.

Using up nearly all the vacation time I’d accrued at the Daily Mail, I scraped together a week in the fall to track down this mystery girl. On Monday, I began crisscrossing several towns outside Boston, Mass., knocking on every door that was associated with Brooke Bullens, texting and calling every phone number linked to her family members as I went. 

Working the chain of the Bullens family over the course of the week, I spoke to her brother Don Jr., who I’d previously assumed received the call from Rossman. Over text messages, he was skeptical of how I’d found his phone number, what I was working on, and why I wanted to reach his younger sister. 

Brooke’s cousin Nick spoke to me over the phone but revealed no information on what he knew or how to reach Brooke. And when I knocked on their doors, the message was consistent from her grandma, as well: I wasn’t going to speak to Brooke. 

My texts to her grew in urgency over the days I was in town, hoping I could nail the right tone to get her to respond: 

Hi, please call. 

Need to ask a question for a story I’m writing. It’s Shawn Cohen, a journalist 

Please call. It’s important 

Hi Brooke. I need to touch base with you concerning some important information I learned. I stopped by an address yesterday thinking it was yours: your grandma answered and took my card. 

You will definitely want to hear this. 

But by Friday afternoon, it became clear I wouldn’t hear back from her. So I packed my bags and headed home.

Excerpted from College Girl, Missing by Shawn Cohen. © 2024 by Shawn Cohen. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

College Girl, Missing by Shawn Cohen is on sale May 28 from Sourcebooks and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.



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