Friends, family and police have kept up the search for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, the Homer women who went missing from downtown Homer on Oct. 17.
About 50 people gathered in the Homestead Restaurant parking lot on Sunday to canvass the East End Road area past Fritz Creek. Volunteers drove down gravel roads in one of the more remote areas of the greater Homer area.
Murnane, 38, disappeared after leaving her Main Street apartment for an appointment at the SVT Health & Wellness clinic on East End Road. The last confirmed sighting is a security camera photo showing her leaving the Maintree Apartments, a supported housing complex. Murnane had a 1 p.m. appointment at SVT Health and Wellness Center, about a 1-mile walk from her home. She did not show up for that appointment.
A caretaker at the complex reported Murnane missing about 10 a.m. Oct. 19. Homer Police Lt. Ryan Browning said staff at the complex check on residents periodically, and interact with them daily or several times a day to give them any medications they might be on. He did not know why it took two days to report her missing, he said.
“I think it was ‘We haven’t seen her in a while’ and they called,” Browning said.
On Monday, a 17-year-old Nikiski woman reported missing on Nov. 9 was located safely. Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Ken Marsh said Heather “Heidi” Swearingen was found and confirmed safe.
Homer Police and Alaska State Troopers issued a Silver Alert four weeks ago for Murnane. Anyone with information on her whereabouts can call Homer Police at 907-235-3150 or the Silver Alert hotline at 855-SILVR99 or 855-745-8799. A Silver Alert is for an adult considered a vulnerable person.
Anonymous tips can be given to Crimestoppers by calling 907-283-8477.
Before the search and canvass, Ed Berg, Murnane’s stepfather, briefed the volunteers and handed out maps of the area to be canvassed. The family has been working with psychics who have suggested things associated with Murnane’s disappearance. Berg said the psychics believe Murnane is with other people and is safe. Berg asked people to look for things like a compound of four or five cabins and dog houses with chains but no dogs.
Berg also said people should look and ask about anything suspicious — cabins that look broken into, recent visitors to unoccupied homes and unfamiliar vehicles parked at trailheads. He also asked people to pass out flyers and let people know about Murnane’s gentle nature and that she remained missing.
“Make them love Duffy so they’re looking,” Berg said.
Tela Bacher, a childhood friend of Murnane who has been helping with the search, on Tuesday said the volunteers had found some things worth following up on.
“I think the main thing we did was spread awareness and make people know we’re looking,” she said. “… We tried to cover as many areas as we could. People worked hard and spread the word.”
Browning said the search for Murnane remains the department’s top priority.
“We’re still investigating this,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s all our entire department has been doing the last three weeks. It’s job number one.”
Berg said Murnane had a trip to an Oregon neurology clinic scheduled for Nov. 2, but she did not make it.
“She was looking forward to that,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place with a loving staff.”
Murnane also has a trip scheduled in December to go stay in Alamos, Mexico. She has visited and stayed there with a group of American ex-patriates. They know that Murnane is missing, Berg said.
Murnane’s family and friends have said they believe she has been abducted. Posters and signs made in the past week have her photo and information with the word “Abducted” in large red letters across the top. Police are treating her as a missing person.
“We have nothing to say she was abducted,” Browning said. “We have nothing to say she wasn’t. All we’re saying is she’s a missing person and she’s still missing.”
Police have worked with the FBI and looked at bank records, social media accounts, cell phone records and plane and ferry boardings.
“Nothing,” Browning said. “… We’ve talked to dozens and dozens of people inside her circle and keep coming up with nothing.”
Murnane was wearing a blue jacket, light-blue shirt and blue jeans the last time she was seen. She is almost 6 feet tall, weighs about 160 pounds and has shoulder-length brown hair and blue eyes. She carried a pink-and-black plaid purse with a shoulder strap and carried her wallet, cell phone and identification. Police said she does not drive or own a vehicle and got around by walking. Berg said he is not sure if Murnane had her passport, but may have a passport card she uses for identification. Canadian authorities told him she would need a passport to get into Canada.
The weekend after Murnane went missing, search and rescue dog teams from Anchorage tracked her in the downtown area, picking up scents from Main Street to Lee Drive, Svedlund Street, Pioneer Avenue and Kachemak Way. Search dogs got strong scents in the Kachemak Way to Pioneer Avenue area near Cosmic Kitchen, in front of Homer’s Jeans and the Kachemak Bay Campus. Murnane frequently ate at Cosmic Kitchen.
However, the dogs could no longer follow a scent and acted as if there had been what search dog handlers call a “car pick up.”
The family say they believe someone picked up Murnane. At Sunday’s search briefing, someone asked if Murnane had special places she went to for solace or to get away.
“She was abducted,” said her mother, Sara Berg. “She did not go on a walkabout.”
Taking off on her own also doesn’t fit Murnane’s personality, Bacher said.
“She is pretty much a homebody. She isn’t the type of person who would go out on an adventure without planning,” Bacher said.
Murnane didn’t take drugs or drink. She didn’t take risks, Bacher said. Murnane hadn’t yet received her Permanent Fund Dividend and wouldn’t have much cash.
“She really had a small community,” Bacher said. “She was not super social. There were a few people she spent time with. … That makes it somewhat easy to keep track of her and where she was going, but there was so little of it. Nothing, nothing has come up.”
Browning, Bacher and Berg all said that while Murnane had a cell phone, she didn’t constantly check it. She didn’t have her phone charger with her, and it’s likely her phone battery had run down.
Browning said the last “ping” to a cell phone tower of Murnane’s cell phone was about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17. A “ping” is the cell phone “shaking hands” with a tower that says “I’m still here.”
“That’s the last connection it (the phone) had with the tower,” Browning said.
The phone hasn’t been found, he said.
Berg said images psychics have noted about Murnane’s disappearance include a Pharaoh’s mask, a graphic of the queen of diamonds and the number 21; an old blue Subaru; a green four-wheeler; a truck spray painted with a black matte finish; a big red house on a corner with the number 1610, but probably not an address; a brown house on a bluff with a view of water; a little girl named Brandy; captors’ names of Mark, Tom, Thomas, Thompson, Jake, Bernie and Melissa; a big dog and a little dog, one a German shepherd mix named Ruffy and the other a beagle mix; a convenience store with a rough road behind it; a white A-frame building, maybe a closed store, and a building site with a basement and first-floor deck, with people living in the basement, and with many green plants and bright light.
Bacher said the response from people in Homer and around the state has been positive.
“The community effort is pretty cool,” Bacher said. “… People are there. They get that however much our sense of safety has been shaken, our sense of community is bolstered.”
Bacher said there may be another canvass on Sunday. People wanting more information can email her at email@example.com to get email updates.
Murnane’s family has started a Facebook page, Bring Duffy Home, and a Go Fund Me account to raise money to assist the search. That money also could go to supplement a reward for tips made through Crimestoppers that lead to Murnane’s return. The reward could be in excess of $5,000, Berg said.
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.