Search for Madison woman ends without any new clues
Credit: Submitted photo
By: RHONDA SIMMONS | Media General News Service
Published: December 11, 2011
Published: December 11, 2011
MADISON — The search for a 22-year-old Madison woman continued Sunday, nearly three weeks after her disappearance.
Despite chilly 35-degree temperatures, about 20 people gathered at the Brightwood General Store on Ridgeview Road in Madison County to organize a search party for Lauren Susanne Smith, who was last seen Nov. 21.
Smith, a 5-foot-5-inch, 250-pound white female who has green eyes and brown hair, was dropped off to clean a house on Oak Ridge Lane near Tryme Road in Leon. According to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Smith typically cleaned this particular home, but didn’t that day.
The civilian search party, organized by Smith’s older sister Leslie Smith, included the girls’ father, Richard A. Smith Sr., his wife, sheriff’s deputies, neighbors and close friends of the family.
Before the search, Deputy Steve Hoffman informed the group that deputies had already searched the area around Tryme Road where Smith was reportedly last seen.
“We’ve scoured that farm, the corn fields, the woods and everything adjacent to that property out there,” Hoffman explained. “We’ve made a pretty thorough sweep out there. I really don’t see any use in covering the same ground twice.”
With that advice, Hoffman suggested searching new territory.
“In any case that you find anything, don’t approach it. Don’t touch it. Don’t disturb anything. Just call somebody and let’s get the investigators in to do it,” Hoffman recommended. “We’re all doing this hoping we don’t find anything, but we’re trying to eliminate all possibilities.”
Bundled up in jackets, baseball caps and gloves, searchers combed the wooded area around Smith’s home on Tennants Church Road starting at about 10:20 a.m.
Divided into two groups, Team A started on one side of the road, while Team B explored the other side, looking for any sign of Smith.
“We’ll parallel the roads because there’s no use going a mile deep in somewhere. The thing you do with search parties is you search the most likely places first leading to the least likely places,” said Hoffman.
Armed with a walkie-talkie and sporting a reflective safety vest, Hoffman kept in constant contact with Deputy Bruce Harvey, who also led a group of volunteers on Tennants Church Road, and sheriff’s Investigator Greg Garrett, who was stationed at the general store.
Garrett believes Lauren Smith may have left on foot and caught a ride.
“But I can’t tell you if she headed north or south,” Garrett said, describing the night in question as a rainy evening. “We just don’t know.”
According to Leslie Smith, Sunday’s search concluded around noon.
“We didn’t find anything at all, but it did give all of us a chance to feel like we’ve helped,” she posted on the “Help Find Lauren Smith” Facebook page Sunday afternoon. “The party only walked areas that hadn’t been searched yet. Those areas that had been thoroughly searched by the police were offered up to us, but we decided to trust that those areas had been walked enough by trained eyes.”
A 2007 Madison County High School graduate, Lauren Smith earned an associate’s degree from Germanna Community College and completed a few semesters at Longwood University.