The West Boise duplex where Sierra Bush was living with her father before she vanished in late September was built earlier this year, the newest house in a small, decades-old cul-de-sac.
The freshly planted bushes and flowers out front, with tags fluttering in the breeze, bring to mind new beginnings.
The 18-year-old, described as a top student with a promising future, was starting an exciting new chapter of her life — her first year in the Honors College at Boise State University. She dove into several campus groups and activities, including creative writing and the Gender Equity Center (formerly called the Women’s Center). She had also apparently begun exploring her own identity: Some on campus knew her as Simon.
Then, one day, she was gone.
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Her new neighbors, some of whom hadn’t yet met her, prayed for her safe return. It was 30 excruciating days before her loved ones would learn her terrible fate: Her naked body was found about 30 miles away in Mores Creek south of Idaho City, according to the Idaho World newspaper.
The circumstances of her death have been described by Boise police only as “suspicious.” Police are not answering questions about whether they think Sierra was the victim of foul play, nor if there is any ongoing threat to public safety.
The same week that Sierra was found, the Ada County coroner released information that 43-year-old Boisean Ronie Parrott, whose body was found in the Foothills in February, had died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Parrott was missing for six months before her body was discovered by a passer-by.
“At this time we do not have any specific evidence leading us to believe that (Sierra’s death) is related to any other known cases,” Boise Police Department spokeswoman Haley Williams said.
Sierra’s mother and stepfather are convinced that she was murdered.
“When someone murders another person, that is who they become for all eternity,” said stepfather Bart Green, a Meridian attorney, in his eulogy for her memorial service. “Just as in Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth,’ as Lady Macbeth found out, you can never wash the blood of murder off your hands. So, for whoever killed Sierra, that is your eternity, regardless of whether God forgives you or I forgive you, you are forevermore living a damned existence, because for all eternity that is who you have become.”
“Everybody would like to know what happened and why. That’s just normal,” said one longtime resident of the cul-de-sac, less than a mile from Capital High School.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said she’s lived there almost three decades and never felt unsafe. The only other crime in that area that she could recall was several years ago, when her husband’s truck was stolen out of the driveway.
“Boise has always been such a crime-free place,” said one neighbor of Sierra’s cul-de-sac, a longtime Treasure Valley resident who recalled meeting Sierra just once — when she and others came out of their homes to assist motorists who had been in an accident. Speaking of her years in the Valley, she said, “There seems to be so much more going on, with the influx of people from outside.”
Sierra lived with her mother, Mary Helen Green, and stepfather, Bart Green, in Meridian until about a month after she graduated from high school, according to Bart Green.
Her father, Phil Bush, invited her to live with him in a new duplex he was building. She moved into that house in June. Bush did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Police said Sierra was last seen alive at the Boise home on Saturday, Sept. 24.
The next evening, she was supposed to meet up with a couple of friends at Boise State’s Albertsons Library, according to one of the women she was scheduled to meet. The group planned to talk about creating an art club for students who aren’t majoring in art. Sierra was going to drive herself to campus for the 5 p.m. meeting.
“(We) showed up at the library at 5, but she never came. Both of us texted her, but she did not respond. It was unusual for her to be late, she was a punctual person, and was usually early to anything we set up,” friend Sierra Luedtke said.
Luedtke said they figured Sierra had gone off on a family camping trip and had no cellphone service — or perhaps her phone had died.
“I did not think anything of it until Tuesday morning, when she didn’t come to our early morning class, and continued to not respond to my texts,” she said.
It was Tuesday that the Greens said they got a text from Phil Bush, who told them he had not seen Sierra since Sunday, Sept. 25.
Sierra’s car remained parked at home, a close friend of Sierra’s said.
“Mary Helen and I have felt from the very beginning that this is an abduction case,” Bart Green told the Statesman in early October.
He also expressed concern for their safety.
“We don’t know if the perpetrator or perpetrators have her key to our house,” he said. “And anyone who’s capable of going into a residence and abducting a young woman, who knows what they might do or their next step might be?”
Many tips to police
Boise police are conducting a joint investigation into Sierra’s death with the Boise County Sheriff’s Office and Boise County coroner. The city took the lead on the case because it started the missing person’s investigation, Williams said.
Detectives are following up on numerous tips to Crime Stoppers, and have heard from the person who first reported Sierra’s body to emergency dispatch. Anyone with information about Sierra or her disappearance is asked to call 208-343-2677 (COPS).
Boise County Deputy Coroner Mike Johnson said the autopsy on Sierra was done by the Ada County Coroner’s Office. Evidence has been sent to labs for forensic tests; he declined to specify what kind of evidence.
“It could be weeks before we have all our results in,” he said last week.
A GoFundMe account to raise money for Sierra’s funeral expenses and donations to her favorite charities hit its goal of $10,000 in 11 days, with 190 people contributing.
Timeline of Bush’s disappearance
Saturday, Sept. 24. Last seen at residence she shared with father, Phil Bush.
Sunday, Sept. 25. Did not show up for a 5 p.m. meeting with friends at the BSU campus. Never responded to texts from friends.
Tuesday, Sept. 27. Father Phil Bush texts mother Mary Helen Green and stepfather Bart Green to say he hadn’t seen Sierra since Sunday.
Saturday, Oct. 22. At 7:46 p.m., authorities receive report of a body found in Mores Creek south of Idaho City.
Tuesday, Oct. 25. Police notify the public that a body was found over the weekend, and it was positively identified as Sierra Bush.