Remains identified as missing teacher
The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Thursday, May 12, 2005
By Nancy Ngo


Discovery in park partly solves mystery of 1999 disappearance

Skeletal remains found this week at a Burnsville park belong to Anne White, a Simley High School teacher from Prior Lake who disappeared in February 1999, according to the Dakota County coroner's office.

For family members and friends, Wednesday's news gave them some relief, answering at least some of the questions they've had for the past six years.

"We've often wondered where she was. I think of her especially around the time she disappeared in February," said Nadine Nickum, White's aunt. "At least we know where she is now."

At about 1:30 p.m. Monday, a man hunting for wild mushrooms found White's remains in a heavily wooded area at the Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve.

In a statement read through family friend Ray Joachim, White's four children Rachel and Manette Swan and Cassandra and Reggie White stated:

"We're both relieved and deeply saddened by the discovery of our mother's remains. While we had hoped and prayed for her safe return, we are thankful for the opportunity to put closure to a long and painful search for our mother."

The family was familiar with the park where White's remains were found. White had once lived in a house near the park with her two oldest daughters and her first husband before they divorced, Joachim said.

Phil Swan remained friends with White after their divorce and when they each remarried. Early on Feb. 7, 1999, White asked to stay with her ex-husband and his wife after having problems in her own marriage and wanting a divorce from her husband, Richard White, according to family members.

Anne White, who was 53, was last seen at her ex-husband's home in Savage three miles from her Prior Lake home.

According to the missing persons posting for White from the North American Missing Persons Network, she had stopped by the home at 2 a.m.

At 7 a.m., Phil Swan's wife checked the guest bedroom where White was staying and found that she was no longer there, according to police.

The Savage Police Department has considered White's disappearance a missing persons case up to this point and has not yet determined if there was foul play involved. White was known to go missing for several days, with at least half a dozen incidents prior to her disappearance, according to police.

White was an English teacher at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights for 22 years. Even today, conversations about her still come up.

"Anne was a fine teacher and she worked well with staff, students and parents," said Simley High School Principal Richard Ehlers. "The news brings some closure, but I don't know if I would call it a relief. I wish Anne could come walk through these doors. That is in all honesty, sort of my wish."

The Dakota County coroner's office was able to identify White's remains Wednesday using dental records. It could still be days or weeks before a cause of death is determined, said Sgt. Dan Carlson of the Burnsville Police Department. The remains were so decomposed that it was difficult to determine the age, sex and manner of death quickly.

"Even though we don't know the cause or manner of death yet, they can put a piece behind them," Carlson said about the family. "We had up to 20 people call saying they had missing family members. I think for families, you're always looking for some type of closure."

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which maintains a list of missing and abducted adults and children, lists 17 people missing on its Web site. It also lists two non-family abductions, including Jacob Wetterling, believed abducted in St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989.