Police search for three Dickinson State women
DICKINSON, N.D. - Three Dickinson women who often go out stargazing are missing and it is unclear where their trail will lead.
Authorities are asking residents to be on the lookout for Kyrstin Gemar, 22, Ashley Neufeld, 21, and Afton Williamson, 20, who all play softball for Dickinson State University. They are believed to have been driving a white 1997 Jeep Cherokee with California license plate number 3UBN521.
Police are searching the area.
Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said the women called a friend Sunday evening to ask for help, but then the line reportedly went dead. He said the friend then called police at about 11:45 p.m.
"The deputy met the individual at Patterson Lake at which time the investigation started and has been going on all day," Tuhy said at a Monday afternoon news conference at the Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson. "From my understanding, when she got the call, they were talking something about water and some hysterical noises (were heard) in the background."
Foul play is not suspected, Tuhy said.
The women are believed to have left their residences about an hour before their friend called police, Tuhy said.
Gemar is a native of Grossmont, Calif., Neufeld is a native of Brandon, Man., and Williamson is from Lake Elsinore, Calif., according to their profiles on the DSU Web site.
Chandra Christmann, a DSU student who lived with Williamson for about two months, said Monday that she thinks the women were stargazing when they went missing.
"They like to go look at the stars," Christmann said.
She added the girls travelled all over the area when stargazing and there wasn't a particular area they frequented.
"I think they try to make it a new adventure every time they do it," Christmann said.
Tuhy could not confirm what the women were doing when they went missing.
"We've had different reports on that and it's nothing that we can confirm, because we haven't had a chance to talk to these three gals," Tuhy said.
Christmann and other friends of the girls say it is unlike them to disappear.
"Softball is too important to them," Christmann said. "Afton is so close to her family that she would never intentionally do this."
The last phone call made by the women pinged off the radar base road cell phone tower northeast of Dickinson, Tuhy said. The call could have been made from up to 30 miles away, he said.
Tuhy said authorities are searching southwest North Dakota for the women from the ground and the sky.
Residents should be on the lookout for the girls and their vehicle, Tuhy said, but cautions against forming personal search parties.
"People do want to go out there and help search for them, but we encourage them not to go out and search for them," Tuhy said. "I can't stop them from going out and looking any place that they want to look."
However, he said personal search parties may interfere with the police investigation.
Tuhy said if someone spots the Jeep, they should contact the Sheriff's Department or Dickinson Police Department.
Some DSU students tried to organize a search party Monday afternoon, but were unsure whether they would search because authorities are discouraging it.
"I feel like we should go do something," said Hilary Efta, Gemar's friend.
Stacy Schaan, a DSU student, said the situation is frustrating.
"I don't know what to do," Schaan said.
Tuhy said organizing volunteer search parties has not been discussed.
"Right now we don't even know where we're supposed to be looking," Tuhy said. "We are trying to target a big area."
Authorities have checked Patterson Lake and other bodies of water around Dickinson, but divers have not been used, Tuhy said.
Emergency notification calls were sent out to residents of Stark, Dunn, and Billings counties, said Brent Pringle, Stark County emergency manager.
"I would say about 7,000 were contacted," Pringle said.