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Search for the missing never ends.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

Search and rescue crews have scoured forested areas near Goshen, Lane Community College and Mount Pisgah in their quest to learn what happened to Helen Jean Ordeman-Pratt, 41, who walked away from her Goshen home March 21 and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Explorer Scouts have joined the search, which has included a helicopter survey of the area around Goshen.

Searchers also are hunting for any clues as to the whereabouts of Rebecca Lynn Hess, a 28-year-old, terminally ill woman who disappeared April 14 from the Creswell apartment she shares with her mother.

Ordeman-Pratt and Hess are the latest to be added to the list of the missing kept by John Miller, Lane County's search and rescue coordinator.

Miller is the only paid member of the Lane County sheriff's search and rescue team, but he's not alone. He has recruited and trained 182 volunteers who are on call 24 hours a day. And he's got five forest deputies who back him up when he's off duty.

His team knows the list of the missing, and each time the volunteers go searching for a new person, the list of older cases runs through their minds, Miller said.

Among the missing is Donald Wayne Fry, a 39-year-old Lowell man who vanished Jan. 24 after climbing a security fence at Lookout Point Dam as his cousin waited nearby. Fry never returned.

There's Brooke Wilberger, a 19-year-old Brigham Young University student from Veneta, who disappeared May 24 from her sister's apartment complex near the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis.

There's Phillip Daniel Steng of Junction City, who, according to a woman who claims to be the last to see him alive, on Dec. 16, 2003, suddenly walked out the back door of his house on Highway 36, crossed a misty field and disappeared, leaving behind everything he owned - his family, his friends, his dog. He'd be 27 now.

There's Anne Cornell Clark, a 41-year-old mother of three daughters last seen Sept. 12, 2002, before vanishing from the Pleasant Hill home she shared with her boyfriend. Investigators have hinted at foul play, but until they find Clark they can't build a case.

And there's Rebecca Reid, last seen Jan. 27, 1997, being shoved into a light-colored 1970s pickup truck outside the old Grocery Carts store at 1510 Highway 99N, where she worked as a clerk. She was 37 at the time.

"We work a number of cold cases," Miller said. "Some of them stick in your gut for years."

Miller's searchers look for clues instead of specific people. They search for signs of human passage instead of bodies. They do scenario-based searches, imagining all the possible circumstances of a disappearance and then searching areas based on those patterns.

It's a systematic process of elimination, Miller said. Working in tandem with criminal investigators, his team knocks off one possibility after another, moving toward the answer literally one step at a time.

In the case of Ordeman-Pratt, who was taking medication for depression and anxiety, investigators suspect she may have hitched a ride on nearby Interstate 5 or gone off into the wilderness with suicidal intentions. Teams have searched cemeteries and other spots where a depressed person might go.

"It looks like she just walked away," Lane County Sgt. Rene Stone said.

Hess was last seen about 11 p.m., when she chatted with her mother as the two prepared for bed. Her mother woke five hours later, and Hess was gone, a previously locked door unlocked, Stone said.

Detectives suspect that Hess may have left the apartment with her ex-boyfriend, Isaac Haslam, who recently had been released from prison. They think Haslam may have come to Oregon from Florida to persuade Hess to leave with him.

Teams will continue their search for the two women, and for the other names on Miller's list. It's a kind of work that never ends. Close one case, and another opens.

"There's always a mystery out there," Miller said.


The Lane County Sheriff's Office asks anyone with information about the whereabouts of Helen Jean Ordeman-Pratt or Rebecca Lynn Hess to call detectives at 682-4150.
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Title Annotation:Crime; Lane County's sole point man in the hunt has help - and a long list of names
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 23, 2005
Previous Article:Festival focuses on sensibilities.

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