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Charles Parish
Apr 282013
 

ABC News(NORTH SHORES, Mich.) — The disappearance of a Michigan mother who was last seen working the late shift at a gas station was reclassified Sunday as an abduction, as the woman’s family pleaded for her safe return.

Jessica Heeringa, 25, made her last sale at the Exxon gas station in North Shores, Mich., at 11 p.m. Friday, police said. She was preparing to close the store for the night, but 15 minutes later authorities said they received a call from a concerned customer reporting that there was no employee at the open gas station.

“She was going to get out in 15 minutes,” Shelly Heeringa, Jessica’s mother, told ABCNews. “In 15 minutes that store would’ve been closed and she would’ve been on her way home.”

Heeringa’s purse and keys were left behind and the cleaning supplies she always took out at closing time were on the counter, her mother said.

North Shores Police Chief Daniel Shaw said today that it appeared robbery was not a motive, and that the store’s cash drawer was left untouched.

The gas station was not outfitted with surveillance cameras, so investigators are relying on tips to help them zero in on what happened during the 15 minute time frame Heeringa went missing.

Shaw said authorities are looking for a silver minivan, possible a Chrysler Town and Country, that was seen in the area prior to Jessica’s disappearance.

Shelly Heeringa said someone saw her daughter “walk out of the store with this guy like there was no problem,” but when they got to his van, a struggle ensued.

“If somebody did take her, I wish they would just drop her some place so she could come home,” Heeringa said of her daughter.

“She’s just a hard working girl. She was trying to support her child,” she said. “She was trying to get her life going and she just needs to come home.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 242013
 

Courtesy Tripathi Family(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) — The search for a Brown University student who left home without his wallet and cellphone has expanded across the Northeast after authorities found no signs of him in the Providence, R.I., area.

Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old philosophy major, was last seen by his housemate on the morning of March 16.

His sister, Sangeeta Tripathi, said her brother had “no exceptional plans” that weekend and that it was “completely atypical” of him to disappear without contacting anyone.

“Between family and friends, we are in constant contact with him,” Tripathi, 30, said. “We became worried when he didn’t respond to many missed calls.”

Tripathi’s bicycle, which he used as his main form of transportation, was also at the apartment he shared with several other Brown University students, his sister said.

The search has focused in the past week on hospitals, stores, parks and other public spaces where Tripathi could be, but authorities have found no signs of him.

The search, which has been spearheaded by the Providence Police Department and the Brown University Department of Public Safety, has now expanded to Boston, Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia, according to a statement from the school.

The FBI has joined the search.

“[It's] on the small hope he just decided to go somewhere and is OK. People have been posting fliers and visiting places a young person without an ID or money would go,” Tripathi said.

Sunil Tripathi grew up in Radnor, Pa., as the youngest of three siblings, who have all attended Brown University, his sister said.

“He’s just a really quiet smart kid. All three of us went to Brown and he outscored us in all of our grades,” Sangeeta Tripathi said.

“We’re a very, very close family and when we heard [he was missing], we were trying to frantically look for photos. We had trouble finding a photo [where] we all weren’t so physically close in the image,” she said.

Sunil Tripathi was last seen wearing a pair of blue jeans, a black Eastern Mountain Sports ski jacket, glasses and a Philadelphia Eagles wool hat. He is 6-feet tall and weighs 130 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Providence Police Department.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 232013
 

Images Courtesy of Amy Hoyle(NEW ORLEANS) — New Orleans police believe that a jogger seen on surveillance video may have information about the disappearance of elementary school teacher Terrilynn Monette.

“If anyone knows who that jogger was, or if you were jogging in City Park that morning, please come forward. Maybe that person saw something that can help the investigation,” Lt. Christopher Kalka told ABC affiliate WGNO News.

Police have also released a sequence of events on the night the second grade teacher disappeared.

Police say that on the night of March 1, Monette, 26, originally of Long Beach, Calif., joined a friend for dinner in a New Orleans area restaurant. The two then joined several other pals at Parlay’s bar about midnight.

“She did not consume any excessive number of alcoholic beverages while she was there,” the police statement said. Police say they interviewed several people who were at the bar including the two bartenders on duty that night, bouncers and other patrons at the bar.

According to the police statement, Monette’s phone ran out of battery life and stopped working just before 1 a.m.

Around 3:30 a.m., she went to her car for 45 minutes with a man who has since been interviewed and ruled out as a suspect, the police said.

“He said, at the time, that she was passed out in the driver’s seat and appeared intoxicated. He thought it was best for her to ‘sleep it off,’” the statement said.

The young teacher left the parking lot around 5:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, March 2.

Police say several unreleased surveillance cameras reveal that no cars followed Monette after leaving the bar, but a jogger was spotted at one of the intersections 10 minutes after her car was last seen on the surveillance tape.

Police also checked a traffic camera near her apartment but there is no sign of her returning home, police said.

Detectives are interviewing “aggressive sex offenders within a 2 mile radius” of the area, Kalka said.

Earlier this week, Monette’s mother urged authorities to expand their search beyond the New Orleans area.

“It should be nationwide now,” Toni Enclade told ABC News. “As a mother, my instincts were leading me to know that she is not in any of the areas where they’ve been searching. I feel and believe that someone has Terrilynn.”

Anyone with information is asked to call New Orleans Police at 504-658-4000.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 082013
 

ABC News (ORLANDO, Fla.) — The mother of missing Florida mom Michelle Parker has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Parker’s ex-fiance, who is the father of two of her children.

Parker, 33, of Orlando, Fla., has been missing since Nov. 17, 2011, the same day her appearance on The People’s Court television show aired. She and Smith appeared in the episode to resolve a dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

Parker was last seen dropping off the couple’s twins at Smith’s home.

Police named Parker’s ex-fiance Dale Smith as the prime suspect in the case, but no charges have been filed and no arrest has been made. He still has custody of the children. But the attorney for Parker’s family claims he has evidence against Smith, including text messages.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess of $15,000, claims that Dale Smith was “negligent or otherwise committed a wrongful act and caused the death of Michelle L. Parker.”

Parker’s Hummer was found after her disappearance as was her battered iPhone, at the bottom of a lake. Though the cell phone was found about 40 minutes from Parker’s home, the lake is only five minutes from Smith’s home.

Parker’s body has not been found, but the lawsuit claims that Parker “died on or about November 17, 2011 as a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the Defendant.”

“That’s the day we believe it happened,” Parker estate attorney John Morgan told ABC News. Parker’s mother Yvonne Stewart represents her daughter’s estate, which includes her three children.

“[Yvonne Stewart] doesn’t want to believe it happened, but everyone knows what happened and when it happened,” Morgan said. “We think she was killed.”

Morgan said the legal team is not ready to elaborate on the details of what they believe happened to the mother of three, but said he will let the lawsuit speak for itself for now.

“If the said Defendant had not been negligent or otherwise committed a wrongful act, and if said Defendant had acted appropriately in accordance with the prevailing standard care of the Defendant, there would not have been any injuries or damages sustained by Michelle L. Parker,” the filing states.

More than a year after Parker’s disappearance, detectives are still investigating her case.

“It’s still an open investigation,” Orlando Police Sgt. Jim Young told ABC News Friday. He spoke to the case’s lead detective on Thursday who said there are no updates in the case and Smith is still listed as a suspect.

Morgan claims he has evidence against Smith, including text messages between Parker and Smith.

“We just think that we have some pieces that when taken with testimony may tell a more full story and that testimony has to come from Dale and his parents.”

Asked if he could elaborate on the content of the messages, Morgan said, “I don’t want to say. I don’t want him to be ready for that.”

“We’ll be most interested when we get a chance to depose him,” Morgan said. “Will he take the fifth or tell the truth?”

Smith could opt out of answering most questions by pleading the fifth in the civil case to prevent incriminating himself in any possible future criminal case.

Smith’s attorney Mark Nejame refutes the claims made by the Parker estate’s attorney.

“They’re barking up the wrong tree,” Nejame said. “They’ve been frustrated for a long time because law enforcement hasn’t found a scintilla of evidence that ties him to her disappearance or murder…Just because everyone thinks he did it doesn’t mean he did it.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 082013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENVER) — Authorities in Colorado are hoping to interview the roommate of a Colorado bank employee who has been missing for nearly two weeks.

Police in Wheat Ridge, a western suburb of Denver, said there wasn’t evidence to suspect foul play in the disappearance of Leann “Annie” Meyer, 52, however, they’re perplexed that her roommate, Melissa Miller, is unwilling to meet police in person.

“We certainly think Melissa Miller has information that would be useful to us. We don’t know if she knows where Annie is, but we would certainly like to speak with her,” Wheat Ridge Police Cmdr. Dave Pickett said. “We don’t have a criminal case at this point. We have no crime scene, no one telling us Ms. Meyer was in danger. This is still very much a missing persons case.”

Authorities can’t pinpoint the exact date Meyer — or her two vehicles– disappeared.

 

Miller called in sick for her roommate, who is employed by U.S. Bank, on Feb. 22, Pickett said. The next day, a friend reported speaking with Meyer on the phone. And on Feb. 25, a text message was sent from Meyer’s phone to her employer, letting her employer know she would not be coming into work.

“She’s real responsible. She’s been at the same job for the last 15 years, never misses work. This is very unlike her to not have spoken to anyone,” Meyer’s friend, Luann Joecken, told ABC News. “I have no reason to believe [Melissa] would harm Annie in any way, but the fact she is not coming forward makes me suspicious.”

On Thursday, authorities searched the women’s shared residence for a third time. Miller has not returned to the home she shared with Meyer since police became involved on March 4, Pickett said.

She told authorities over the phone that her roommate left with a woman named Cathy, police said, but Joecken said she was skeptical.

“I’ve known her for 28 years. She has never once mentioned this Cathy person to me,” Joecken told ABC News. “I’ve been talking to people for the past four days, and no one has ever heard of her.”

Meyer’s absence is particularly stinging for her friends, who would have celebrated her 52nd birthday with her Friday.

Instead of a birthday celebration, they are organizing search parties. Joecken and a group plan to search the area on Saturday for signs of their friend, and to hand out flyers, if bad weather does not get in the way.

“It’s extremely stressful. I just wish there was something I could do,” Joecken said. “We’re having a search for her tomorrow, but we’re expecting bad weather, so it may be delayed. I’m very upset.”

ABC News could not reach Melissa Miller for comment.

Meyer’s missing silver Rav4 has a Colorado license plate 975-YUH. Her missing Toyota pick-up trick has the Colorado plate 688-DJH.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Wheat Ridge Police Department at 303-235-2947.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio