A decade later, Trib still seeking answers in the death of employee who had gone missing

Dan Niehaus was a quiet man who preferred to keep a low profile.

People who knew him hope new information emerges that could help break the silence surrounding circumstances of his disappearance a decade ago.

Robert Miklos said he and Niehaus worked side-by-side for several years tying up bundles of Pennysavers for editions of the Tribune-Review. When Niehaus didn’t show up to work at the West Deer plant where they worked on May 28, 2013, Miklos said he was surprised.

“I don’t ever remember him missing work,” said Miklos of Penn Hills, who has worked for the Trib since 2005.

Niehaus, also of Penn Hills, was 49 at the time of his disappearance. He had been working for the Trib since Nov. 6, 2005.

Of their time working side-by-side, Miklos said, “He didn’t talk too much. He didn’t talk about anything. He was just very quiet and very private.”

Co-workers reported Niehaus missing and handed out flyers about him to area businesses. They scoured the woods near Niehaus’ Lime Hollow Road home, but came up empty.

A year after his disappearance, a West View Water Authority employee found human remains along the Ohio River in Avalon. Researchers in Texas said DNA from those bones matched a sample provided by Niehaus’ family.

Then in July 2015, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the remains belonged to Niehaus but did not declare a cause of death.

While Niehaus had been found, many questions remained answered.

While Penn Hills and Allegheny County Police said they have exhausted all leads, the Trib continues to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in Niehaus’ death, Trib Total Media President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto said.

Bertetto, who has worked for the Trib for 25 years, participated in the search for Niehaus in the woods near his home. She personally cleaned out his locker, which contained little notes about tasks that he was supposed to do during the day.

“None of us felt like we really knew him,” Bertetto said. “He was quiet and he just showed up.”

“Our reward remains available for information,” she added. “I want people to know Dan mattered to us, we haven’t forgotten him, and we’re going to keep talking about this until we get answers.”

Todd Besh is the production director at the Falcon Road facility in West Deer where Niehaus worked. He has worked for the Trib for about 13 years, three of them alongside Niehaus.

Besh remembers Niehaus as a man who never swapped gossip, talked about his family or mentioned his interests. Niehaus preferred to nod instead of speaking during his annual reviews, Besh remembered.

“He almost never talked. Literally, I’m not exaggerating,” Besh said. “But he was a very nice guy. He was very reliable and he did his job. But he was really, really quiet.”

Besh added: “He was kind of an all-business guy. He knew what tasks he would have to do that day and he would do them.”

Niehaus originally lived in Wheeling, W.Va. He kept his personal vehicle — a maroon pickup — immaculately clean and tidy. But little else is known about him. Niehaus’ sister, Donna Milliken, who still lives in Wheeling, did not return calls seeking comment.

Penn Hills police Chief Ronald Como was a patrolman when Niehaus went missing.

“An adult can go missing on their own accord. If they choose to leave and not tell anyone, they can,” said Como, who called the cold case “a little unusual.” “It does sound strange.”

“This case was investigated thoroughly, by us and the county,” he told the Trib. “Unfortunately, the results were not of a positive nature.”

Miklos isn’t ready to forget. He recalled a time when Niehaus gave him a ride from the Trib’s West Deer facility to Cranberry. Few words were exchanged, but Miklos said he got a sense for the man.

“He was generous with his time and helped people out,” Miklos said. “He just didn’t have much to say. And that’s what everybody remembers.”

Justin Vellucci is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Justin at jvellucci@triblive.com.

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