Search for missing Colorado girl focuses on woods, ponds
A dive team from Union Colony Fire/Rescue Authority on Saturday afternoon searched ponds in the Gateway Lakes Nature Area in south-central Greeley as part of the search for Kayleah Wilson, 12, who has been missing for a week.
The fire department was called in by the FBI and Greeley Police Department, according to John Fagerberg, Union Colony spokesman. The nature area is on the southwest corner of U.S. 34 and 35th Avenue, just west of the Home Depot store.
“They just wanted to follow up on some leads that they had out there,” Fagerberg said, adding that no evidence was found. The crew started searching the ponds around 2:30 p.m. and finished about 5 p.m.
“It was pretty shallow – only waste-high at the deepest,” he said. “They were probing the area with poles and search nets.”
Also Saturday, authorities on foot and horseback combed wooded, undeveloped areas between Greeley West High School and CenterPlace shopping area on Saturday as the search intensified in the vicinity of Kayleah’s home.
By late in the day, the intensive effort – which has involved scores of authorities from the FBI, Greeley police and Weld County Sheriff’s Office – had not yielded any sign of the girl who disappeared March 28. Kayleah left her home in the 2800 block of 28th Avenue for an afternoon birthday party, which she never ended up at, and never returned.
On Saturday, about 15 members of the Weld County Sheriff’s Posse, all on horseback, joined the FBI and Greeley police in ground searches that focused on wooded areas around Greeley West High School and Centerplace, as well as undeveloped areas on the south side of U.S. 34, said Sgt. Joe Tymkowych, Greeley police spokesman. Those areas included the nature area just west of Home Depot, and other undeveloped parcels stretching to the north edge of Evans. Authorities checked a few buildings on the south side of the highway and also combed along ditches and ponds.
Tymkowych said there was no specific reason authorities focused on those areas.
“That’s just next on the list,” he said. “We just want to start hitting some of those areas that are a little farther from her place, some places that people don’t frequent. We want to be sure we comb them pretty tight today and make sure there’s nothing there we should know about.”
Tymkowych said authorities had collected and checked out about 100 leads as of Friday.
“That usually occurs,” he said of high-profile cases such as this that draw national media attention. “We start to have people who come in and give us a call and send e-mails, and we’re hoping that continues. Anything a person even remotely might believe to be a piece to this puzzle we want to know about it – you bet.”
Mackenzie Wilson, Kayleah’s older brother, spoke briefly to the media at the family’s home Saturday.
“It’s just a roller coaster,” said Mackenzie, 17. “We don’t know. We are just waiting and hoping people will help.”
Assistance from the community grows daily in the effort to find Kayleah. Students at Brentwood Middle School, which Kayleah attends, made ribbons Thursday to raise awareness of her disappearance. One of her classmates is making T-shirts with Kayleah’s picture, and the Village Inn, 921 30th Ave. in Greeley, on Saturday gave free biscuits and gravy to volunteers helping in the search.
“We just wanted to help them out,” said Renee Hudspeth, a manager at the restaurant.
Asked how his family is holding up, Mackenzie said, “It’s just stressful. We’re getting anyone possible to help.”
Tymkowych said late Saturday he wasn’t sure how the search would progress today, other than saying that authorities are continuing to work round the clock. About 50 FBI personnel have joined in the effort. Searches are planned to continue in the Greeley area by the Weld County Sheriff’s Posse and numerous individuals on foot.
He said the search of the ponds was part of a thorough canvassing of the undeveloped areas in the vicinity of Kayleah’s home.
On Friday, authorities were scattered along 30th Street, south of the Greeley Mall, stopping traffic and handing out photos of the missing girl. The birthday party Kayleah was supposed to attend was held in that area. About 500 motorists were asked if they’d seen anything on March 28.
“It’s just an expanded, selective kind of search to make sure there’s nothing there we need to focus on,” Tymkowych said. “Ideally, it would be nice to find her sitting in those trees too scared to go home. That’s just not happening yet.”
Tribune reporter Nate A. Miller contributed to this report.
Suzi Larson said her daughter, a close friend Kayleah Wilson, has been very distressed by Kayleah’s disappearance and wanted to help.
“After they did the ribbons (at their school, Brentwood Middle School), she sat down and talked to me, and we decided that we were going to do T-shirts,” Larson said.
They made five shirts with a picture of Kayleah on the front and the message “Have you seen me?” underneath. On the back is a personal message by the girl: “We miss you Kayleah.”
Larson declined to give her daughter’s name because “she’s having a very hard time with it.” The mother and daughter came up with the T-shirt designs on their home computer.
Larson said her daughter wore the shirt to Brentwood on Friday, while her two sons wore them to Central High School and Monfort Elementary School, respectively. Shirts were also given to two friends of Larson’s daughter.
“Some girls saw them (at school) and wanted them, and that’s how this got started,” Larson said. “You get her face out there, and hopefully we can help the family at the same time.”
The Larson family so far has bought 36 T-shirts from Michael’s Arts and Crafts in Greeley. Larson said they plan to sell the shirts at cost, about $4 to $6, and encourage buyers to also donate a dollar or more to help the Wilson family. “We want to have orders before we start making them,” Larson said, noting she’s getting help in the effort from a friend and her sister.
“We just want one less worry for them,” she said of the Wilsons. “We don’t want them to have to worry about money at this point. They have enough on their plates.”
To order a shirt, e-mail Suzi Larson at email@example.com.
Thoughts and prayers on Web
A Facebook group, “Prayers for Kayleah Wilson’s Safe Return,” has been started to give supporters a place to connect. More than 1,500 people had joined the group by late Saturday.
The following is a sampling of some of the comments as they appear on Facebook:
>> “For Kayleah and all of the missing children, prayers to you and your families.”
>> “This has hit home. I work in Greeley and this girl is a student in my next door neighbor’s class. I also work with my neighbor’s sister and both of their husbands are cops. At least the FBI is involved to help Greeley police find her!”
>> “Praying for Kayleah’s safe return. You are constantly in our thoughts, prayers, and conversations.”
>> “Please bless and hold this dear child and her family in your heart, Father. Keep her safe and guide her home. Thank you for bringing the media and FBI to help in this search. Please grant them the grace to do this for every child who disappears.”
>> “As our day begins with Easter egg hunts and happiness, we are not forgetting Kayleah and all our thoughts and prayers will include her. I am praying also that whoever has her; that God will reach down and make them come forward with her. … Our God is powerful. All of our prayers are powerful to the Lord’s heart! Pray … all day.”
>> “I hope Kayleah comes home safely, my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.”
Source: “Prayers for Kayleah Wilson’s Safe Return” page at http://www.facebook.com