Inside the FBI Podcast: Searching for Steven
On this episode of Inside the FBI, we'll discuss the relentless efforts to find Steven Kraft, who disappeared in 2001 from his Michigan neighborhood.
Ellen Ferrante: Something was wrong when 12-year-old Steven Earle Kraft Jr. didn’t return home for dinner on February 15, 2001.
Steven—described as an independent, but social, “rough and tumble” kind of kid—was used to roaming around his Michigan neighborhood. He lived in a close-knit community where everyone knew one another. But after one evening when Steven went out for a walk, no one ever saw him again.
In this episode of Inside the FBI, we’ll learn more about Steven’s disappearance and the search for answers.
I’m Ellen Ferrante, and this is Inside the FBI.
Steven Earle Kraft Jr. was living in an area of Benton Harbor, Michigan, called Benton Heights, where he was last seen on February 15, 2001.
Special Agent Trisha Kovac from the FBI's Detroit Field Office has been working on Steven’s case. She describes the community where Steven grew up:
Trisha Kovac: Everybody knew each other and all of the community. They were very close and very social. He knew a lot of people. He had a lot of relatives. So, he would go door-to-door down on his street. They lived on a dead-end street off of, kind of a well-traveled highway. He would just stop by peoples’ houses, get something to eat, hang out with family or friends. So, Steven was well-known out in the area.
Ferrante: It was a cold and slushy February day, typical for winters in Michigan. Steven was supposed to play with a friend down the street while his mom cooked dinner. He was due back around 8:00 p.m. Steven headed out with his two dogs—they were his faithful companions, and he never went anywhere without them. Steven was last seen with his dogs sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m.
When Steven's parents realized he was missing, they asked around the neighborhood if anyone had seen him. Around 1:00 a.m. they contacted local law enforcement to report their missing child. A few days later, the FBI joined the investigation.
Local law enforcement and FBI agents went door-to-door to canvas neighbors for information. They also spoke to registered sex offenders in the area.
Steven enjoyed spending time in the woods, so the investigation covered local and neighboring ponds and small lakes. Although Steven's dogs were initially missing, as well, one of them returned home after a few days. His second dog was later found several blocks away. But there were still no leads as to what happened to Steven.
Law enforcement publicized the search nationwide.
Kovac: From the beginning, they were very proactive in putting out the information. There were numerous newspaper articles. Steven’s case was covered on America’s Most Wanted by the following July. In 2002, he was featured on a NASCAR racing car. So, Stephen’s story was out there. In the past few years we have done media blitzes and we’ve done billboards. Stephen has regularly had age progressions done on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children page, and his pictures are featured on the FBI Missing Children page, as well.
Ferrante: Over 22 years have gone by since Steven was last seen, but this has never stopped being an active case. The FBI and law enforcement continue to look for him and find out what happened that fateful February evening. Sadly, both of Steven’s parents died shortly after the 20-year anniversary of his disappearance.
Kovac: My one regret is that we were not able to solve it for them. I went to the wake for his father, and his mother was sitting there in the front, in the middle of her husband’s own viewing for his funeral. She looked at me and her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh, I know something more I want to tell you.” And she was always so eager to want to solve this case and bring her son home.
Ferrante: Special Agent Kovac got to know Steven's family over the years as she worked on the case. His mother kept books filled with his sketches and would share them with her.
Kovac: I remember I had stopped by the house one day and we were just spending time and she pulled them out and was showing me all these drawings he had made, and there were dragons and all kinds of things. And she showed me his sketches, and he actually was quite talented. And it’s really incredible to have this child come to life for you, as well, and it makes you more driven to work the case and find him because that child is very real to you, as well.
Ferrante: Steven’s sister has been proactive in the case, keeping hope alive for his return. Every year on Steven’s birthday, she makes his favorite cake.
If you have any information concerning Steven, it’s never too late to report it.
Kovac: I think some people are hesitant and it’s easy to sit back and put it off when you’re anxious about giving away information. Unfortunately, a lot of witnesses, a lot of people over the years who had some sort of a tangential knowledge of the others around at the time and things, they have passed away for various reasons.
I don’t want any witnesses to go before they can give us their answers. And I’m hoping, perhaps, as some of them are aging and getting older and realizing their own mortality, that maybe they’ll realize this is something they shouldn’t take with them and that they need to give peace to the community and to Steven’s family before they depart.
Ferrante: Steven was last known to be wearing a blue-green Charlotte Hornets basketball team jacket, a tan and white striped T-shirt, tan parachute pants, and black boots. In addition to his home in Michigan, Steven has ties to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Lexington, Kentucky.
If you have anything to share concerning Steven, please contact your local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. You can also contact the Benton Township Police Department at 1-269-926-8221 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-STOP. To submit an anonymous tip online, please visit tips.fbi.gov.
Since Steven was last seen in Benton Heights in 2001, the neighborhood has changed. The house he grew up in has since been torn down, as have a number of buildings on neighboring streets. Today a local airport takes up that space. What remains is the search for Steven.
Kovac: This is something we will keep working on until we find out what has happened to Steven.
Ferrante: This has been another production of Inside the FBI. You can follow us on your favorite podcast player, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. You can also subscribe to email alerts about new episodes at fbi.gov/podcasts.
I’m Ellen Ferrante from the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs. Thanks for tuning in.
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