Deer season is starting and Missouri's hunters have a chance to help law enforcement solve crimes if they're observant during the hunting season.
Missouri Missing offers advice to outdoor enthusiasts about their ability to help solve cases and provide clues in Missouri's missing cases.
There are currently 614 adults missing in the state of Missouri, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's (MSHP) website. There are 374 missing children in Missouri. There are, as of press time, six missing persons from Pulaski County and seven from Phelps County.
Among the missing, in Pulaski County, are Sally Allan, 70, Richard D. Fitzsimmons, 17, Michelle Henri, 26, Dawson Hunter Preble, 16, Alex Michael Valverde, 44, Cherylle Maria Wansing, 35. The ages of the missing are the age they were at the time they went missing.
Among the missing, in Phelps County, are Jacquelyn L. Auten-Metz, 53, Eugene Albert Cerney, 43, Paul G. Cleek, 52, Matthew Deering, 18, Timothy J. Potter, 41, Larah Dawn Thompson, 32, Qutisha W. Willis, 38. The ages of the missing are the ages that they were when they went missing.
Not listed on MSHP's missing person website, but are still missing from Pulaski County, were Al Marshall and Teresa Gossage, two teens who were out on a date on Oct. 9, 1979 and haven't been seen since. However their vehicle was discovered not far from where Johnny Lee Thornton's victims were discovered on Fort Leonard Wood.
According to Pulaski County Sheriff's Department (PCSD), there are currently 51 unidentified remains in the state of Missouri that have been found in various states of decomposition. Often remains or clues to missing individuals or other crimes are discovered by hunters, hikers, runners, and even people out walking their dogs.
PCSD reported that around a year ago, an individual in the Pulaski County area, was preparing for hunting season and discovered some clothing and other personal items. Those items actually ended up belonging to a missing person from Columbia. A search of that area of the Mark Twain National Forest didn't reveal any other clues or the missing man, but did add another piece to the puzzle of the missing man's story.
The Mark Twain National Forest is over 1.4 million acres and 39,177 of those are in Pulaski County. PCSD said that animals are known to move remains over long distances and that a coyote can drag bones in a range of 50 miles, according to information given to them from a forensic scientist about the subject.
According to Missouri Missing, Milissa Corn, from Callaway County, was found by mushroom hunters in 2008, Kinga Gillabran, from Maries County, was found by a deer hunter in 2010, and both Brandi Mathews, from Miller County, and Carol Thompson, in Caldwell County, were found by people out walking their dogs.
"Hunters and all outdoors enthusiasts cover more ground than the families and authorities can do when searching. You are the eyes that help bring families of the missing resolution. Keep up the great work by remaining vigilant, observant and responsibly reporting anything out of the ordinary," MIssouri Missing says.
Hunters are asked to be aware of their surroundings and note if anything seems off, out of place, or there are things that don't belong in the area.
"Clothing could be covering human bones. An abandoned car could contain remains or give clues to what happened to a missing person. Personal items like a watch, eye glasses, jewelry, shoes, a cell phone, etc. could also be important clues. You may have found a crime scene," Missouri Missing says.
Missouri Missing asks that hunters don't just dismiss bones they might find as animal bones because "it can take anthropologists examining the bones to determine."
Missouri Missing says to do the following if you find something:
- Tag the area.
- Don't disturb the area.
- Walk away the same way you walked into it.
- Call the authorities.
- Stay near the area, if you can, until law enforcement arrives.
- If you cannot stay near the area, get the GPS coordinates and take photos that will help law enforcement locate the area.