Volunteers who joined searches for evidence in the Michele Reiter disappearance made a lot of unexpected discoveries during morning and afternoon walks along Brown County highways Sunday. Brownwood Police Department investigators didn’t have much time to sift through the data before the remains of a female matching the description of The Home Depot employee were found Monday morning in Coleman County by Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens.
“I was really proud of the big group that turned out,” said Eroica Poindexter, one of several people who helped organize the searches. “There was a big group (Sunday) morning, and a lot of them came back at 2 p.m. There was a lot of extra people who came out (in the afternoon).
“I’m very thankful for everybody who came. Also, every step that was taken I feel like that’s one step closer to bringing Michele home to her kids and her family. That’s the important thing.”
Searchers began both treks at Coggin Park, and ended at High Mesa Cowboy Church. They returned with reports of finding everything from bags of dead chickens to piles of empty cans, as well as other litter. While they were instructed not to enter private property, they did take note of secluded places where someone might hide.
Organizers extended their appreciation as well to Wal-Mart for donating bottled water, McCoy’s for ribbons and High Mesa Church for use of its facilities and sandwiches.
Members of one team said they were headed west toward Coleman County Sunday, where a woman’s body was found Monday. It was not known whether that effort was tied to the discovery.
While some of those who searched for Reiter know her, she was a stranger to many of those involved.
“I don’t know her, I’ve never met her, I can’t say I ever ran into her at Home Depot,” one volunteer who asked not to be identified said. “But I would want somebody to take their time to help find me if I was missing. I want her family, I want her kids, to be able to sleep at night and know she’s safe or where her whereabouts are.”
It’s an emotional time for those close to Reiter.
“I knew Michele from working with her at The Home Depot,” Jacquelyn Carnes said. “We’ve been searching all (Sunday) around (U.S. Highway) 377 and County Road 234, checking around the quarry, checking bridges, checking trash, checking everything hoping that something will help bring her home to us and to her family. It’s more important for her family. She’s my friend. I want her home. We do appreciate everything people have done.”
Her comments broke off as her eyes began to tear.
Lysa Gadillas searched Sunday with her daughter Kendra Franke. “The reason I’m doing it is for my daughter,” Franke said. “They all need closure. My daughter and Michele were buddies. They partied on my daughter’s birthday. They were out there having a good time.”
Poindexter said the search presented a huge task.
“We covered a lot of area, although looking at the map, it seemed like a lot more area than we actually covered,” Poindexter said. Before the discovery of a female’s remains Monday, organizers were considering another search, perhaps on a Saturday.
“I’m very thankful for everybody that came,” Poindexter said.
Reiter has two children, a son age 20 and a daughter, 13, Dennise Worrell, Reiter’s roommate, said. Both live in the Abilene area. Worrell was the last person to see Reiter on the evening of Sept. 10.
Worrell and Poindexter met with Brownwood Police Department Sgt. James Kidd at the conclusion of the searches to deliver maps of the areas searchers covered, lists of places they marked for further investigation, along with some digital photographs.
Among the search areas were the region around the Camp Bowie softball parks where Reiter’s car was found two days after she disappeared. It was searched on the ground by police, and then by air with a Department of Public Safety helicopter. Worrell said the area of the county south of the parks and around Lake Brownwood were suggested as search areas by authorities.
“New eyes see new things,” Worrell said. “Today it was good to have people covering where other people had gone.”
Worrell also urged residents to avoid spreading misinformation about the case.
“Stop the rumors,” Worrell said. “Unless you heard it from the police department, don’t run with it, because it is so hurtful. They don’t know what they’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut, for the sake of the family.”
A Facebook page dedicated to finding Reiter was closed to additional comments Monday afternoon in order to prevent speculation.
Police have been guarded with details concerning their investigation, not wishing to compromise it.
“What we’ve done,” Poindexter said, “is we looked in ditches. We looked under bridges and culverts and piles of wood. No piece of trash was disregarded. We marked lots of things that could be important, or could not. It’s all being turned into the police. We just walked and walked and made sure there was no place in our area that was left untouched.
“I pray to God every day that they’ll find her. Whatever happened, she needs to be home.”