Nearly two weeks after she went missing on Oct. 17, Homer Police remain actively searching for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane.
Murnane, 38, disappeared after leaving her Main Street apartment for an appointment at the SVT Health & Wellness clinic on East End Road.
Police consider the search for Murnane their main focus.
“We have an incredible team right now that has put a lot of work and effort into this,” said Lt. Ryan Browning. “We’re all working together.”
After pursuing numerous leads and interviewing hundreds of people, police are still no closer to finding her.
“It’s a needle in a mass of massive haystacks,” Browning said.
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 purse or bag 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.
Homer Police and Alaska State Troopers issued a Silver Alert two 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.
The last verified sighting of Murnane on Oct. 17 comes from a security camera image that shows her at 12:13 p.m. Oct. 17 leaving her apartment at Maintree Supportive Housing, the apartment complex on Main Street where she lived. Browning said Murnane probably had been walking to a 1 p.m. appointment at the SVT Health & Wellness clinic, about a 1-mile walk from her home. She never made her appointment, Browning said.
Before police discovered the security camera image, a person who knew Murnane from school had reported seeing Murnane in front of Homer’s Jeans about 5:15 p.m. Oct. 17. Police also received tips that people saw her on East Bayview Avenue the morning of Oct. 17, but security cameras in that area don’t show her there.
“There’s nothing to corroborate eyewitness accounts of people who say they saw her in that same time frame,” Browning said.
Volunteers did a ground search in downtown Homer the weekend after Murnane went missing, but found nothing. That at least ruled out the possibility that she had been injured or disabled. Police also searched the area by helicopter, with aerial drones and by driving beaches.
The weekend after Murnane went missing, search and rescue dog teams from Anchorage tracked Murnane 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.
“It’s a loop the dogs can’t get off of,” Browning said.
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.” While police don’t have evidence that Murnane had been picked up in a vehicle, on the basis of that police expanded their search outside the Homer area.
If Murnane had been picked up, particularly if she had been forced into a vehicle, witnesses would have been likely to see that. Pioneer Avenue between Kachemak Way and Heath Street at mid-day sees a lot of traffic, with cars waiting for turns at the intersections.
“While we have nothing that says she was abducted, we don’t have anything that says she wasn’t,” Browning said. “This one has me scratching my head.”
Murnane didn’t take taxi cabs and generally got around by walking, Browning said. Police still checked with cab drivers and none of them reported picking her up.
Police have reviewed security camera footage from businesses in the Pioneer Avenue area, but have found nothing useful either because of camera angles or the fact that some cameras don’t have tapes. Anyone who might have security camera footage is asked to contact police.
After getting warrants, Police also have looked at Murnane’s emails, social media accounts, e-commerce accounts and bank records. There had been a “ping” showing use of Murnane’s cell phone at Mile 171 Sterling Highway about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17. However, cell phone hits like that are accurate within about a 3.5-mile radius. Browning said the last outgoing cell phone call Murnane made was 10 days before she went missing.
Police can get hits from Murnane’s cell phone, an iPhone model, if it’s not in airplane mode and if the battery isn’t dead. They haven’t received anything. Police served a warrant on her operating system records. The FBI has said those records could show use even if the phone was in airplane mode, but that’s a review FBI experts know best how to do, Browning said. The FBI is in the process of examining the operating system records.
Murnane had gone to the Pratt Museum the night of Oct. 16 to hear a lecture by her stepfather, Ed Berg. Nobody showed any interest in her or hung around her at that talk, Browning said.
“By all accounts she was doing well, doing her normal routine up to the point she walked out of her apartment, and then, just, poof,” Browning said.
Berg said the family has been focusing its efforts on spreading the word as widely as possible about their missing daughter and sister. Last Saturday, friends went door-to-door in the Anchor Point area handing out flyers.
“I think that in turn has generated a lot of phone calls to the police, people thinking they saw somebody who looked like her,” Berg said.
Browning said police have received tips about Murnane from all over Alaska, including Haines, Kenai and Anchorage.
“We’ve probably talked to 100, 200 people so far,” Browning said. “So far, nothing. No leads.”
Murnane’s family also has consulted several psychics. One psychic said Murnane might be near a town with the word “river” in it.
“On the Kenai, that pretty much comes down to Funny River,” Berg said.
When he worked at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Soldotna, Berg had a place in Funny River — the area on the south bank of the Kenai River.
“One thing that struck me about that was there were a lot of empty, seasonably unoccupied cabins,” Berg said. “It would be the perfect place to squirrel away a kidnap victim.”
The family also canvassed the Funny River Road area, Berg said.
Police aren’t discounting the tips from psychics, Browning said.
“We’re prone to follow up leads in places they’ve suggested, but nothing really concrete has come out of that,” he said.
On the theory that her daughter might have been abducted, Murnane’s mother, Sara Berg, put out an appeal.
“Please release her,” she said. “I’m just begging these people to release her.”
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.