Grieving Daughter Seeks Answers in Father’s Murder Two Decades Later

Lauren Moser asking public for help in solving mystery of what happened to her father in 2001

With no clues to go on, authorities offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the murder of Danny Moser. (Courtesy image from Natrona County Crime Stoppers)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Lauren Moser was 4 years old when her father, Danny Moser, was killed. Today, on the 21st anniversary of his death and as the case remains under active investigation, the 25-year-old Casper mom and college student has only vague memories of him. But she has been told by family that she looks exactly like her father, right down to his distinct cleft chin, and walks and talks like him, too.  

Lauren’s 3-year-old daughter also is his spitting image, too. “We both have his chin,” she said with a smile in her voice.

Other than his appearance, Lauren can’t remember anything about her father. “That’s the issue,” she said in an interview with the Wyoming Truth. “I woke up one morning and couldn’t remember the sound of his voice, his smell or anything.”

Lauren’s grandmother advised her to look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” because that’s the closest she’ll ever get to her dad again.

She’d settle for answers about what happened that night and who killed her father.   

Danny Moser was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood just after 1 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001, in a roller skating rink parking lot in Mills, a town of just under 4,000, about five miles outside Casper. He’d been badly beaten and hit by a car, according to police records.

Danny’s Moser death has been a mystery for 21 years, but the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation is determined to solve the case, investigators say. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation)

Moser died in the hospital two days later—and months shy of his 28th birthday. His official cause of death was homicide from blunt force trauma to his head, according to former Natrona County Coroner Dr. Jim Thorpe.

Moser’s case is actively being investigated, according to Andy Hanson, special agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and head of its cold case unit.

“I’m optimistic we’ll see some movement within the next few months,” Hanson said, but declined to provide details about the open investigation.

Locating suspects

What’s known publicly about Moser’s death is based on eyewitness testimony and grainy video surveillance.  

According to a 2001 report from former Mills Police Captain BJ Wilkinson, Moser, a divorced father of two, had spent most of the evening of Oct. 19 drinking at the Sandbar Lounge before going to Cattleman’s Club around midnight.  

Video surveillance from the Cattleman’s Club shows Moser leaving through the front door alone at around 12:45 a.m. and being  followed by one of two “suspicious” men later identified by eyewitnesses.

The two men were reportedly from out of town, witnesses stated, and had approached several people in the bar asking where they could buy drugs. Because Moser’s ride had left without him hours earlier, police suspect that the men might have approached Moser outside and offered him a ride.  

During the 15-minute window after Moser left the bar in Casper and before his body was discovered in the Wagon Wheel parking lot in Mills, police believe Moser was attacked inside the car and either escaped or was thrown from the vehicle, which then struck him.

In the aftermath of Moser’s death, police shared the grainy photos of the two men with the public. It’s not clear what tips emerged, though a December 2001 article in the Billings Gazette reported Wyoming homicide investigators had traveled to Montana to investigate. 

To Lauren’s knowledge, these men have never been located. Her dad was a drinker, she said, but wasn’t known to use drugs, according to family members.

Moser was later determined to have a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, the police report stated.  

Lasting fissures

Moser’s death has left lasting scars on his family. Lauren’s relationship with her mother, who has since remarried and moved to Cheyenne, has been strained in recent months because Lauren refuses to let the mystery rest.

Lauren took her father’s death hard. She has been in therapy since age 6 and has grappled with drug addiction. She also battles epilepsy and bipolar disorder. While Lauren has been sober for the past three years – save for a short relapse last year when she briefly moved to Cheyenne – she said life has been a struggle.

“I’ve had a lot of traumatic experiences in my life,” Lauren said quietly. “I feel like I’m trying to piece together my past.”

Investigators released grainy surveillance footage of two men who followed Moser out of the bar the night he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2001. (Courtesy image from Natrona County Crime Stoppers)

The need for answers is common among adults who lost parents in their teens or young adulthood, according to Donna Schuurman, author of “Never the Same: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Parent” and senior director of advocacy and education at the Dougy Center in Portland, Ore.

“It’s a natural impulse to want to fill in the blanks, especially when it relates to [Lauren’s] father,” Schuurman said. “People are telling her she looks like him, and she’s wanting to know more about who this person was.”

Whereas Lauren’s mother wants to get on with her life—a different natural impulse, Schuurman said—Lauren has a need to know. “It’s part of the process to close the loopholes,” she said.

There’s also a need on the part of the child to question or reinterpret the actions of police—specifically whether they did enough or gave up the investigation because they thought that the deceased person didn’t matter.  

“For [Lauren], it’s been 21 years, and she’s wondering does anyone care anymore,” Schuurman said. “She’s going to care because she loved him.”

Healing is harder for these children, as they often receive less support than those who lost a parent in a car wreck or another accident like falling off a roof. Deaths resulting from murder are difficult for people to discuss, Schuurman noted. 

Everyone grieves in their own way, she added. Intuitive grievers tend to be emotional and want to talk about their feelings, while instrumental grievers, like Lauren, want to take action and get results.

Said Shuurman: “Some people start foundations for that cause, or like Lauren, want to solve the crime.” 

Justice for Danny

In the meantime, Lauren is studying criminal justice, which she attributes to her personal experience and a need to help others like herself. In May, she’ll graduate with an associate degree from the University of Phoenix. She wants to become a social worker for adult protective services or a criminal psychologist. 

And she won’t stop searching for answers about happened to her dad.

“The facts in this case are very vague and more could have been done indefinitely,” she wrote in a public Facebook post. “The facts that are available don’t add up, leading me to believe someone knows more than they are willing to tell. I just want to remind everyone, this is about me finding answers and receiving the closure me and my family need.”

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact DCI at (307) 261-2194 or Crime Stoppers at 577-TIPS.

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