Almost 60 volunteers picked up maps and instructions Sunday and fanned out across Brown County to search for Michele Reiter, an employee of The Home Depot who was last seen Sept. 10.
About 30 volunteers participated in the morning search that began at 9 a.m., and several more -- including a number of holdovers -- came to Coggin Park at 2 p.m.
"This is still a missing person search, not a recovery," Denise Worrell, Reiter's roommate, told the afternoon volunteers.
Eroica Poindexter, who assisted in organizing the searches, instructed the teams to note in particular abandoned outbuildings in places they could see from highways that are away from the beaten path and where it's obvious that people don't go often -- places where an abductor could hide.
Worrell was the last person to see Reiter before she left home in the early evening of Sept. 10.
Searchers received a one-page handout with guidelines, and told to limit their efforts to public lands. They had strict instructions to avoid going onto private property, even if gates are open. Volunteers were also given red ribbons to use to mark suspicious locations, and instructed not to touch things they find in order to preserve evidence in case police investigators determine it is significant. Suspicious locations are defined as sites where things like clothing, purses, cell phones, weapons or blood can be seen.
"Do not touch any evidence," the instruction sheet states.
"Take your time," Poindexter said as the morning search began. "We won't be able to finish this all in one day."
Later, as the afternoon search started, Poindexter offered a personal observation on how much territory the searches could cover.
"We went out this morning and thought we had covered a lot of ground," she said. "But when we put it on this map, it was just this much."
"That's the thing," Worrell added. "This is a huge county with a lot of places to look. And it's a huge state." However, she said the fact that teams find nothing is still beneficial to the police investigation because those findings can indicate where law enforcement may not need to prioritize their efforts.
Brown County maps marked with grids were distributed to searchers, who were told to mark areas they searched before turning them in at the end of their outings at High Mesa Cowboy Church. The church also made sandwich materials available to searchers as they returned. Al those materials and findings are being turned over to Brownwood Police investigators.
Rosters with names and phone numbers of searchers were filled out, and that information was also filled in on the maps in case authorities need more information.
Representatives of the Brownwood Police Department, who have been investigating Reiter's disappearance with cooperation from other agencies, were on hand for the Sunday morning briefing prior to the search.
While search teams were dispatched to all areas of Brown County, Poindexter said the initial focus of the teams was near the ball parks at Camp Bowie, where Reiter's car was found two days after she disappeared, and around Lake Brownwood. She said those are areas police had suggested, without explaining why those areas were chosen. A Department of Public Safety helicopter from Lubbock conducted an aerial search of the Camp Bowie area on Wednesday.
"Police haven't been saying much," Poindexter said. "They don't want to compromise any case they might have."
She said even though the Camp Bowie area has been already searched extensively, additional walk-throughs by volunteers could prove beneficial.
Temperatures soared into the 90s Sunday afternoon, and Poindexter encouraged teams to take all the water bottles they needed. The water, she said, had been provided by Wal-Mart.
"I appreciate you guys," Poindexter said the teams dispursed. "We are here with one goal, to bring Michele back home."