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Sunday, February 16, 1997

Sunday, February 16, 1997

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Ida Grove search uncovers no clues

By Dorothy Hubert

Journal correspondent

C.J. Chelin, Debby Warren and Carol Churchill, members of a search and rescue team from Murray, Neb., get ready to hunt for a missing Ida Grove woman Saturday. (Photo by Dorothy Hubert)

IDA GROVE, Iowa - Search and rescue teams from South Dakota and Nebraska joined Iowa law enforcement officials and local volunteers in their search Saturday for a missing young mother, Connie Ruddy.

The search produced no new clues or information, officials said.

The disappearance of the 21-year-old woman has officials puzzled.

"We've got a big fat zero here," said Ida County Sheriff Dave Jensen. "Most questions I have to respond with "I don't know, I don't know.'-"

Ruddy was reported missing Monday after a friend visited her home and found Ruddy's children, a 3-month-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, unattended but otherwise fine.

Involved in the city-wide search were 17 teams. The 91 volunteers included law enforcement officials, Emergency Medical Services personell and fire department members.

At a rally at the Ida Grove Community Center before the search began, the Red Cross provided coffee and doughnuts.

"Our local people are wonderful," said Ida County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Frank."They come right away, they don't ask questions. It's wonderful to see that many people turn out."

Search and rescue units from Yankton, S.D., and Murray, Neb., brought dogs - labradors and bloodhounds - to search remote areas and comb the nearby wooded Moorehead Park.

The commander of the Yankton area search and rescue unit, Scott Pospishil, said after their local sheriff was contacted by the Ida County Sheriff's Department, "We volunteered to come right away."

Pospishil said search procedures begin with a basic plan.

"We plan out special search areas and then search those areas until we've satisfied ourselves they're not there. We use a human search team in some areas and utilize dogs in other spots," he said.

C.J. Chelin, commander of the Murray (located 20 miles south of Omaha) search and rescue team, said that in her 11 years of rescue operations her unit has worked in human remains recovery and live tracking throughout the Midwest.

"There's no such thing as an unsuccessful search," said Chelin, who has a background in law enforcement. She said their method of operation of choice is to start at the location where the missing person was last seen and radiate out from there.

Weather conditions and the snow cover present a challenge according to Chelin.

"Dogs tire out faster in the deep snow," she said.

However her rescue team is willing to come back today.

"We'll do anything we can to help locate Connie," she said."

Frank said officials are preparing to take additional action if Ruddy is not found.

"We're going to sit down this afternoon (Saturday) to see what our next step is," he said."

Ruddy is described as 5 feet 1 inch tall, weighing 97 pounds with shoulder length brown hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes and a maroon jacket.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Ida County Sheriff's Office at (712) 364-3146.

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