Dennis DePue: The true story behind killer who ‘inspired Jeepers Creepers’

Marilyn and Dennis DePue photo
Dennis DePue allegedly killed his wife, Marilyn, before taking his own life during a police shootout. Pic credit: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Dennis DePue became known as the man who likely inspired the Jeepers Creepers movie after he allegedly murdered his wife, Marilyn DePue, then discarded her body behind an abandoned school.

In 1971, the couple got married and had three children, whom they raised in Coldwater, Michigan. It was there that Marilyn worked as a high school guidance counselor and Dennis was a property assessor.

They seemed like the perfect family until Dennis’ behavior toward them suddenly changed, and Marilyn didn’t like it.

She would often confide in her friends about how unhappy she was in her marriage and would think about ending it all.

Dennis had become controlling, and he didn’t allow her to make decisions on anything. He also thought his children had turned against him, and he blamed Marilyn for that.

She grew tired of it and finally decided she had enough in 1989 when she filed for divorce. Dennis pleaded with her to make their marriage work, but by then, her mind was made up.

Marilyn and Dennis DePue’s story

Within a year, their divorce was finalized, and Dennis moved out of the house. That’s when Marilyn changed the locks, but he was just around the corner.

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Dennis remained on the property because he had turned the guest house into his office, and many have speculated that he only did that so he could keep an eye on his family.

He thought that could control their every move, but that didn’t turn out well for Dennis.

On Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990, Dennis went to the house to pick up his children so that he could spend time with them.

The judge had previously granted him visitation rights, and he was allowed to see them every two weeks.

However, when he got there, his children refused to go with him. Dennis visibly became upset, and Marilyn tried to reason with him, but he took his anger out on her.

He allegedly pushed her down the stairs, then brutally beat her while their children begged him to stop.

When his oldest daughter ran out of the house to get help, he picked up Marilyn, who was badly injured, and said he would take her to the hospital.

Authorities said they never checked into any of the hospitals in the area, which then led to a city-wide search of the former husband and wife.

Did Ray and Marie Thorton catch Dennis in the act?

That same day, a married couple named Ray and Marie Thorton were playing a game while traveling on Snow Perry Road, which was 12 miles outside of Coldwater.

Each time they saw a license plate on a passing vehicle, they would have to devise a slogan.

So when they saw a 1984 Chevrolet van approaching in the distance, they were preparing themselves to start the game again. But the man behind the wheel was speeding and driving aggressively.

When it finally passed them, Marie saw that the license plate said “GZ,” and she quickly said, “Geez, he’s in a hurry.”

But the game ended when they drove by an abandoned school and saw the van parked on the side. As they got closer, they could see that the man was holding a bloody sheet.

The couple thought about calling the police, but before they could make a decision, the van was already behind them, and the driver was yet again driving aggressively.

They were being tailgated them for miles until turned off the highway, which caused the driver of the van to pull over.

When Ray turned around and drove past the van, they noticed the man was changing his license plate. And because the passenger door was open, they could see blood inside the car.

That’s when the couple decided to drive back to the school. Once there, they found the bloody sheet, then contacted Michigan State Police.

Officers later confirmed that the blood on the sheet belonged to Marilyn, and tire marks found at the scene matched the tires to Dennis’ van.

The following day, Marilyn’s body was found near a roadway in Bethel Township. An autopsy showed that the 48-year-old died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Dennis was the prime suspect in her murder.

Over the next several weeks, Dennis sent seventeen letters to his friends and family from Virginia, Iowa, and Oklahoma that explained the reason behind his wife’s killing.

Dennis DePue was featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries

On March 20, 1991, a woman returned to her home in Dallas, Texas, to find her boyfriend “Hank Queen’s” van outside in the driveway—it was usually kept in the garage.

When she went inside, she noticed he was packing his belongings.

“Hank” told her that his mother was sick and that he needed to take a trip to see her. Meanwhile, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries was playing in the background.

The second half of the show featured a wanted man named Denis DePue, whom officials said murdered his wife.

What the woman didn’t know was that “Hank” was actually Dennis, and he was trying to leave before she or any of his girlfriends recognized him and turned him in to the police.

But it happened anyway.

After the episode aired, state and county police officials received a tip that provided the number of the license plate that Dennis had stolen and put on his van.

Dennis left his girlfriend’s house and drove four hours to Louisiana, but it was there that he was caught by state troopers.

He led them on a high-speed chase that ended in Mississippi.

The sheriff stated that, during a shootout with police, Dennis took his own life by shooting himself with a .357.

Is Jeepers Creepers based on the real story of DePue? 

Eleven years later, in August 2001, Jeepers Creepers was released, and the opening scene seemed a little too familiar to those who knew the story of Dennis and Marie.

The movie began with two siblings, Darry (Justin Long) and Trish (Gina Phillips), who were returning home from college. Darry was driving the vehicle, just like Ray, and Trish was in the passenger seat.

As they were traveling on the long, stretched road, they decided to play a game. It was the same slogan game the Thortons were playing.

And it wasn’t long before a van crept up behind them, driving aggressively before the van sped past them, which is what Ray and Marie had experienced.

Instead of an abandoned school, Trish and Darry saw the driver of the van parked outside of an abandoned church. When they drove by, they saw him holding a bloody sheet, similar to what the couple saw.

Trish and Derry kept driving, but shortly after, the van was tailgating them again, which is what the Thortons said Dennis did to them when he realized they saw what he had done.

Just like Marie and Ray, the siblings decided to return to the church, but instead of finding a bloody sheet, they found a body and immediately alerted the police.

Although the producer of Jeepers Creepers, Victor Salva, has yet to confirm whether or not the movie was inspired by Dennis, fans have come to their own conclusion.

Due to similarities, it is likely that Jeepers Creepers is inspired by the real story of Dennis.

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Leo Goss
Leo Goss
19 days ago

Fairly frightening horror movie. I do remember watching that episode of unsolved mysteries, (a 1995 rerun), and I can’t believe even after enjoying ‘Jeepers Creepers’ with my girlfriend in 2003; we both missed the connection to the murderous crime of Dennis DePue. That married couple portrait/ photo with Mr. DePue’s ‘smirk’ or half-smile is not flattering for any of the surviving children…I’m sure, (probably mature young adults now). Horrible for that family to lose both their parents in eleven months, I pray for the family and hope they grew prosperous and happy…keep their mothers memories alive.

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