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A chilly search for clues in Thief River Falls missing woman case

This photo of Gina Anderson, a missing Thief River Falls woman, was taken during Christmas 2007.1 / 2
Duane Kashmark is guided toward an opening in the ice by fellow Valley Water Rescue divers during a training exercise Monday evening in West Fargo's Rendezvous Park. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)2 / 2

WEST FARGO - Divers with Valley Water Rescue looked for clues in the case of a missing Thief River Falls woman Monday while they conducted a training exercise in a West Fargo pond.

Seven divers took turns plumbing the eight-foot depths of Rendezvous Park pond after 5 p.m. Monday, under chilly winds and drifting snow.

By 7:30 p.m., the training exercise had yielded no clues in the disappearance of Gina Anderson, last seen leaving her home Oct. 23.

Pete Fendt, president of Valley Water Rescue, said the group drilled two diving holes through the three-foot-thick pond ice.

Anderson's father, Steve Lappegaard of Thief River Falls, said witnesses told authorities months ago they saw a woman matching Anderson's description near the pond about a day after she disappeared.

Anderson, 32, last was seen Oct. 23 leaving her home in a yellow Pontiac Sunfire.

She left behind her purse, credit cards, identification and anti-seizure medication.

Fendt said he has talked to Thief River Falls Police Chief Kim Murphy several times about the pond.

"The family kept kind of pushing us just to go out there and look at it, so he asked if we would," Fendt said. "And that's the reason we went out to look at it last week."

Fendt said he and three other members found no signs of a car driving into the pond. About two-thirds of the shoreline is covered in brush and the other one-third is sand and gravel, he said.

"The ground was so wet last fall, it would have left great big ruts any place that somebody would have tried to drive across there," he said.

While checking out the pond last week, Valley Water Rescue members decided it would make a good dive training exercise, Fendt said.

He said the pond is in an out-of-the-way site that is unknown to many people in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Many tips came in to law enforcement across the region of reported sightings of Anderson in the weeks after she went missing, but none turned up any solid information, said Jim Van Schaick, the Thief River Falls Police investigator heading up the search. He didn't go to West Fargo for the dive exercise Monday.

Lappegaard said the family will resume searching when the snow starts melting. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension continues its involvement in the search, as well as the Pennington County Sheriff's Office and the city police.

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