Dennis DePue Murder Wife: A Chilling True Story

On Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990, Ray and Marie Thornton were on a peaceful drive along Snow Prairie Road near Coldwater, Michigan. Their serene day took a dark turn when an aggressive Chevrolet van appeared in their rearview mirror, driving erratically before overtaking them. Little did they know, they were about to witness a scene that would inspire the chilling opening of the horror film “Jeepers Creepers.”

A Disturbing Encounter on a Quiet Road

The Thorntons had been playing a lighthearted game of making slogans from the license plates of passing cars when the van sped past them. Marie noticed the plate beginning with “GZ” and commented, “Geez he’s in a hurry.” Their curiosity soon turned to horror as they approached an abandoned schoolhouse and saw the van parked nearby. The driver was carrying a bloody sheet toward the rear of the building.

Marie was shocked but unsure of what she had just witnessed. As they debated calling the police, Ray noticed the ominous van approaching them again. The vehicle tailed them closely for two miles, mimicking the tense atmosphere later depicted in “Jeepers Creepers.”

Ray and Marie Thornton’s Terrifying Pursuit

Determined to get more information for the authorities, Ray turned the car around and drove back toward the van. They found the driver, now changing the rear license plate, and noticed the van’s open passenger door covered in blood. Fearing for their safety, the Thorntons sped back to the schoolhouse, where they discovered the bloody sheet partially stuffed into an animal hole. They immediately contacted the Michigan State Police.

Unbeknownst to them, the police were already searching for the driver and his injured wife. The Thorntons had stumbled upon 46-year-old Dennis DePue.

The Troubled Marriage of Dennis and Marilynn DePue

Dennis Henry DePue, born in 1943 in Michigan, worked as a property assessor. In 1971, he married Marilynn, a beloved high school counselor in Coldwater. The couple had three children, but Dennis’s paranoid and controlling behavior strained their marriage. He often accused Marilynn of turning their children against him.

By 1989, Marilynn had filed for divorce, citing Dennis’s attempts to control every aspect of her life. Despite the separation, Dennis maintained a home office in the garage. The couple’s divorce was finalized in December 1989, but just five months later, Marilynn was dead.

The Day of the Murder

On Easter Sunday, Dennis arrived at the family home to pick up two of their children. His younger daughter, Julie, refused to go with him, and their son, Scott, also hesitated. Marilynn’s attempt to calm Dennis only fueled his rage. He violently pushed her down the stairs and beat her at the bottom while their children watched in horror. Their oldest daughter, Jennifer, ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police.

Dennis left with the severely injured Marilynn, claiming he was taking her to the hospital. They never arrived. The police began a widespread search, and soon the Thorntons’ encounter with the van became a crucial lead in the investigation.

The Discovery of Marilynn’s Body

A forensics team sealed off the schoolhouse, finding tire tracks that matched DePue’s van. The next day, a highway worker discovered Marilynn’s body, shot in the back of the head, near a deserted road. This road was midway between the schoolhouse and her home, confirming that Dennis DePue had murdered his ex-wife.

The Manhunt for Dennis DePue

After the murder, Dennis DePue became a fugitive. Over the following weeks, he sent bizarre letters to friends and family, attempting to justify his actions. Seventeen letters in all, postmarked from various states, depicted his descent into paranoia and desperation.

On March 20, 1991, in Dallas, Texas, a woman came home to find her boyfriend, “Hank Queen,” acting strangely. He packed his belongings, claiming an emergency trip home due to his mother’s illness. Distracted by the episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” playing on TV, he hurriedly left, fearing recognition.

The High-Speed Chase and DePue’s Demise

DePue fled, fearing that his girlfriend’s friends would identify him. His van was soon spotted by Louisiana state troopers, leading to a 15-mile high-speed chase. DePue crossed into Mississippi, where law enforcement was waiting. He blasted through a roadblock, and officers shot out his rear tires. After a desperate attempt to evade capture, DePue’s van was forced to stop.

As officers approached, they found DePue dead, a .357 Magnum in his hand. His reign of terror had ended.


The chilling story of Dennis DePue’s crime and the subsequent manhunt is a haunting tale of domestic violence and desperation. It serves as a grim reminder of the potential for violence lurking behind closed doors. The Thorntons’ chance encounter with DePue and their brave actions played a pivotal role in bringing this tragic story to light, inspiring a piece of cinematic history in the process.

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