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Residents seek answers in disappearance

People involved in the search for missing Ashland teen Hannah Thomas-Garner called off a Sunday search for clues on Dead Indian Memorial Road, but they say the suspect the disappearance was a crime, not a runaway. Now they are calling on the Ashland Police Department to deepen its investigation.

New snow in the area of Dead Indian Memorial and Shale City roads — site of the Nov. 30 party where the 17-year old girl was last seen — raised concerns for the safety of some 50 people who had volunteered to drive up there and search for personal items, said Amy Couture, an Ashland resident and participant in the effort.

“The reasons we’re searching for clues is that we believe she’s not a runaway,” said Couture. “We’re asking the police to pursue this as a criminal case. They've said they believe she’s alive somewhere in California, but they don’t know where.”

Couture says Ashland police have been very helpful in the case, but she and others will present law enforcement with a statement in the police department parking lot at 11 a.m. Monday, so they can deliver facts that she says indicate Thomas-Garner may be a victim of foul play.

Thomas-Garner was considered a stable Ashland High School student with good grades and a positive family situation, according to family and friends at a Plaza vigil for her last week, but she disappeared from the party, with her car being found abandoned and bashed up near a freeway exit in Mount Shasta, Calif.

A motorist said he gave a ride to a hitchhiker matching her description the next morning, dropping her off at Dunsmuir. Police have said the man’s testimony is credible, especially given the fact that she had reportedly planned a runaway jaunt with another girl.

However, Couture said that Thomas-Garner’s father, a Texas resident, viewed surveillance video of the supposed hitchhiker, recorded at a store later, and said that is not his daughter.

Couture says she and other supporters want the police to divulge all evidence they may have in the case, so that townsfolk may have full knowledge of all circumstances that could point to criminal activity. Police were not available for comment over the weekend.

Supporters had planned to search the Dead Indian Memorial Road area for clothing, shoes, a driver’s license and especially a SIM card Couture says is missing from the girl’s phone, which was found in her car, she says.

Couture said she and others were not able to reach police over the weekend to verify facts about the phone and video. Couture said she wants to set up a meeting with police or else walk in the building and try to find someone to talk to, especially about the confusion around sightings in the first few days.

All information on the girl is being posted on the Bring Hannah Home Facebook page (facebook.com/bringhannahhomesoon). Couture said she is in contact with the father, James Garner, by email. The search on Dead Indian Memorial Road will happen when weather improves, she said.

— Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


Hannah Thomas-Garner
Hannah Thomas-Garner, shown here in a photo posted to the Bring Hannah Home Facebook page, has been missing since November. Courtesy of Facebook