Saturday, June 03, 2006

Missing Reachelle Smith, Update

As you know, Campers, I have taken a keen interest in the Reachelle Smith missing person case. And in my gut, I believe Reachelle is find-able. I don't know if she is alive. But I can't shake the feeling that she can be found.

Somebody is stepping left when they should be stepping right.

I started a discussion on a forum hosted on the internet by KELO-TV that's based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If the moderator accepts it, the discussion will open up for talk about where to look for Reachelle.

I listed all kinds of possibilities and will post some of them here.

And before I post the list I would like to point out that two boys were missing once and the entire neighborhood searched high-and-low for them. And found nothing.

Then SOMEONE finally checked the most obvious place hidden in plain sight: The trunk of an old family car. The boys died of asphyxiation. But not right away. The car was parked in the driveway the whole time everybody was looking somewhere else!

Is there a possibility that Reachelle is being hidden in Fargo?

Has anyone checked the grounds around an electrical substation or waste-water treatment plant?

What about a junk yard?

Have all abandoned or old cars been checked, along with old refrigerators and freezers?

What about abandoned houses or business buildings?

Also, what are Reachelle's favorite places to go?

What were Leigh Cowen Jr.'s favorite haunts? Where did he prefer to go when he wanted to "be alone" or "get away to think."

I wonder if Reachelle is in an old dirt-floor basement or an attic.

Wherever she is, I don't think that the knowledge of her whereabouts died with Leigh Cowen Jr. Nope. I believe that someone else knows where she is, too. I truly do.

And I, in my humble way, am asking for that person to step forward and do the right thing. Tell the truth before God and everyone who cares about Reachelle.

Keeping Reachelle from those who love her is wrong. And whomever you are, you know this.

From a psychic standpoint, the only thing I "see" are rocks...Lots of them. Rocks, mud and little shoes.

That might be relevant and it might not.

I pray once again, that God, who knows all, will bring sweet, little Reachelle Smith home.



[Posted on Sat, Jun. 03, 2006

Case is baffling, but search for 3-year-old girl continues

Associated Press

MINOT, N.D. - Police Chief Dan Draovitch had difficulty sleeping on the night before he handed in his badge and retired after 38 years in law enforcement. It was not retirement that was keeping him awake - but a case he was leaving behind.

The case of 3-year-old Reachelle Smith, last seen on May 16, haunted him. It has been one of the most complex and frustrating cases ever to be investigated by his department, he said.

Searches have turned up no trace of the girl known as "Peanut." And leads in the case have dried up.

"I haven't been this frustrated in years - it's driving me crazy," Draovitch said, as he cleared out his office on Wednesday, his last day with the department. "It feels terrible to leave this undone. But at the same time, it will be left in very capable hands."

Draovitch, 62, announced his retirement in January.

Armies of authorities and volunteers have scoured Minot and surrounding areas since May 22, when Reachelle was reported missing by her aunt, Stephanie Smith, 24, the child's legal guardian.

Reachelle was believed to be with Leigh Cowen, a man wanted on a parole violation who had been living with Smith, and who claimed to be Reachelle's father even though police say DNA tests proved he was not.

Police said Cowen told Smith that Reachelle was with his mother and she believed him, until a family van turned up missing, along with Cowen and Reachelle. Authorities later learned that Cowen's mother did not know the girl's whereabouts and issued an Amber Alert.

A day later, Cowen's body was found in a van in the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Minot. Authorities said the evidence showed he died from carbon monoxide poisoning about 12 hours before his body was found, after running a hose from the exhaust inside the vehicle.

There was no sign of Reachelle.

Over the past few weeks, law enforcement officers have sought help from FBI behavioral scientists and even psychics in their search for the child. Stephanie Smith and her sister Samantha, the child's biological mother, held a news conference to issue a tearful plea for her return. Samantha Smith, 22, had given legal custody of Reachelle to her sister at birth, Draovitch said.

A river channel near the child's home drew much interest from authorities early in the search. Divers dragged the water, while volunteers and bloodhounds searched the banks. The channel later was pumped dry.

"We've floated it, drained it, dove it, dogged it and walked it," said Capt. Al Hanson, the lead investigator in the case. "Nothing."

Most of the ground in the city has been searched "six, seven or eight times," he said.

Draovitch and Hanson said some overtime has been paid to officers but most of them have volunteered to search for Reachelle while off-duty.

"Most days, I have to kick the guys out and make them go home," Hanson said. One officer was covered with more than 80 ticks after one day of searching, he said.

Cowen's mother, Ellen Loomis, of Derby, Kan., said her son turned 22 years old on May 16, the day Reachelle was last seen.

Loomis, who had moved from Minot shortly before the child disappeared, said she had taken care of Reachelle only once. She said she learned she was not the Reachelle's grandmother when police began investigating the child's disappearance. Her son and "everyone else led me to believe I was her grandmother until she went missing," she said.

Authorities have said they questioned Loomis and are satisfied that she has no idea of Reachelle's whereabouts. She said she is as baffled they are.

"I don't know the story," she said. "I wish I knew - it would be a lot easier on me. I just want her found. That's all I want."

Cowen's ashes were sent to his mother last week, police said.

Cowen was on probation for theft of property in Ward County and was being supervised in Fargo when he failed to report in as required. A warrant was issued in April for his arrest on charges of violating his probation and he was facing up to 18 months in prison for the parole violation, Hanson said.

Before Reachelle disappeared, Cowen had taken dozens of snapshots of the child to bring with him to prison, Draovitch said. DNA tests earlier had proved he was not the father, the chief said.

Authorities do not know why he continued to claim the girl was his daughter.

"He said he was the father, and his mother was convinced he was the father," Draovitch said. "He called her his child and he claimed she was his child, but I'm not sure he was ever totally convinced that he was the father."

Draovitch said Cowen did not leave any clues about why he killed himself, or any clues to Reachelle. Still, police consider him the only suspect in the girl's disappearance.

"Everything we've run down leads back to him," Hanson said.

Two volunteers from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were in Minot last week to help in the investigation. Missing-child experts Pat Farrell, a retired police chief from Rochester, Minn., and Lee Manning, a retired Massachusetts State Police officer, said they believed authorities in North Dakota have been doing everything possible to find the child.

"They are not leaving any stone unturned," Manning said.

Draovitch said many of the 62 officers in the department are "physically and emotionally drained" from the case, but no one has given up.

"People have come together like you would not believe," he said.]

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