Families of missing persons keep searching — for their loved ones as well as for closure

MISSING BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

When the snow melts each year in the spring, Alice Guy’s attention turns to news stories about bodies being uncovered by the thaw.

More than a decade ago, Guy’s brother, Walter Smith, went missing. Since then, the Flat Rock resident has made about a dozen trips to central Indiana sites where unidentified bodies have been discovered, each time hoping investigators will tell her they’ve finally found her brother’s remains.

“I’ve had to accept the fact that he isn’t alive, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be found,” Guy said.

Before he disappeared in 2006, the 42-year-old Smith was in the finishing stages of opening a restaurant in Edinburgh. Driving through the small town now is still bittersweet for Guy.

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“I make sure to look down that road and see that sign, and part of it warms my heart and part of it is saddened,” she said.

Guy believes Smith was murdered and that he didn’t run off on his own.

“My brother was starting to do good,” Guy said. “He was going to live his dream. He bought a building and was opening a restaurant. That was his dream.”

‘Total devastation’

Smith’s disappearance is one of at least four missing-persons cases still active in Johnson County. For family and friends of the missing, living in limbo is a constant struggle.

“It is total devastation, the not knowing and not having answers,” said Debby Dyer, the Indiana area director for the Doe Network, a nonprofit that tracks missing-persons cases.

Dyer has kept in touch with family members of people who have gone missing in Johnson County with the hopes that someday the information her organization posts online might help resolve one of those cases.

While Guy has come to accept that her brother is no longer alive, she wants some sort of resolution to the mystery of his disappearance. She still does what she can to make sure Smith is remembered. On the 10th anniversary of his disappearance, she released balloons with information about his case. And each year on Smith’s birthday, May 11, she organizes a car wash to raise donations to help pay for the flyers she distributes with his information.

Really horrible’

For Guy, who lives in Shelby County, keeping up-to-date on potential leads about her brother is relatively simple. But for the sister of a man last seen on Interstate 65 nearly two years ago, keeping the search alive means making lengthy trips to and from her home in Florida.

David Kallenberger, 47, was headed to Florida to visit his sister, Kimberly Hanson, on March 15, 2016, when his Harley Davidson motorcycle broke down and stranded the Lafayette man alongside I-65 just a few miles north of the Edinburgh exit. He didn’t make it to Florida.

Hanson estimates she’s traveled to Indiana about 10 times since then to organize searches for places she thinks the body of her brother might be and to talk with people who may have seen him.

“I’ve exhausted every penny I have,” Hanson said.

Like Guy, Hanson doesn’t believe her brother is still alive. Their mother died just six months after his disappearance, and Hanson said it would have been out of character for him to abandon her like that.

“I always had sympathy for people with missing family members,” Hanson said. “I thought it must be really horrible. I had no idea to what extent that pain was — and the feeling of hopelessness when you can’t get any help. This isn’t about me, this is about my brother and about finding him and what happened to him.”

Case never closed

For police, the work doesn’t end, even for cases that date back more than a decade. Greenwood resident Brookley Louks was last seen in 2002, but tips and leads about the 19-year-old still trickle in.

“The case is never closed,” Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth said. “We followed up on potential leads in that case within the last two years.”

Police haven’t disclosed what those leads were or if anything came of them, but they still suspect that a man who has since died murdered Louks.

Center Grove area man Joseph Nowicki was suspected of having killed Louks, as police reported finding traces of her blood in his workshop. Nowicki, who had served more than 20 years in prison for shootings, an escape from prison and burglary, died of cancer in 2003. He was never charged in Louks’ disappearance.

Lola Fry was 28 when she was last seen in Greenwood in 1993. In the 20-plus years since her disappearance, neither her car with its distinctive license plate or her body have been found. Her family, too, believes she is dead.

Missing-persons cases aren’t always the result of a crime. Fillenwarth recalled a case from about a decade ago, where a family had reported an adult daughter as missing. Turns out the woman had gone to Canada and when she returned to the U.S. and was going through customs, a scan of her passport told officials that she had been reported missing.

However, when police called to talk with the woman, she told them that she no longer wanted anything to do with her family. All that the family was told was that the woman had been located and was alive.

“If you or I want to go missing, you can disappear,” he said. “It’s a waste of time and resources for law enforcement but not against the law.”

At a glance

Name;age;date when last seen;city last seen

Lola Fry;28;Nov.14, 1993;Greenwood

Brookley Louks;19;June 24, 2002;Greenwood

Walter Smith Jr.;42;Sept. 3, 2006;Edinburgh

David Kallenberger;47;March 15, 2016;Edinburgh

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.