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Volunteers, police come up empty in search for runner

Jacksonville police and Jackson County Search and Rescue are asking witnesses to come forward to help them find a runner who disappeared after leaving for a run Friday morning.

Dr. Ashley Laird, 37, an emergency room physician at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, left her Jacksonville home on South Third Street at about 9:15 a.m. Friday and never returned. The search is complicated because she left no clue of the direction she was running and she did not carry a cell phone.

Dan Arnold, Laird's husband, said Saturday afternoon that search and rescue volunteers looked along flat paved roads near their home with no luck. Arnold said Laird had been nursing injuries to her knee and hip, so she had been avoiding hill runs, but no clues had turned up.

"Now the search is broadening," Arnold said.

Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe said Saturday afternoon that they need witnesses to help narrow their search.

"Maybe they saw something, maybe they saw her run by their house at a particular time yesterday morning," Towe said. "We need to know that — we need to try and backtrack her footsteps yesterday morning."

"So nothing at this juncture is too insignificant — we need to hear it."

More than 100 volunteers have helped in the search, Arnold said, plus about 25 Search and Rescue volunteers, according to Capt. Tim Snaith with the Jackson County Sheriff's department. Volunteers scoured the area until about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, and were back searching at 5:30 a.m., Towe said.

"It's just been this huge collective effort," Arnold said. "The amount of support we've gotten has just been wonderful."

Friends have come forward to help, Arnold said. Laird's sister and brother-in-law drove up from Cool, Calif., this morning to help with the search.

Laird's cousin, Yancy Simon created a Facebook page and flyers from his home in Corvallis. Simon said it's unlike Laird to go off somewhere without a word to anyone. She has a son who just turned 5 years old.

"She wouldn't just go M.I.A.," Simon said.

Laird is described as white, 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 100 pounds and with blonde shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a dark green running shirt and a red and white Stanford University baseball cap.

Sgt. Eric Fox with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department provided a photo of the green run shirt she's believed to be wearing. Above a Clif Bar logo, the shirt says "Way too Cool 50K Endurance Run."

Simon said that, as a medical doctor who has participated in ultra-runs and leads an active lifestyle with Arnold, a climbing book author and outdoors writer, Laird has a "higher skill set than most" in the outdoors.

Until recently, Laird was a nationally-ranked ultra-marathon runner. She won the 2014 American River 50-mile race and placed in a number of other large events, according to a release from the family Simon emailed.

"She's a very, very, very experienced runner," Arnold said. He said his wife knows how to listen to her body, and called the possibility of a heat-related injury "fairly unlikely."

While Laird didn't communicate a route before she left, she typically runs in areas surrounding Jacksonville and southwest Medford-area main roads, according to a release issued by Jacksonville police.

"I would be surprised if she did anything less than 5 miles," Simon said.

Arnold said Laird was very familiar with the Jacksonville area. The family moved to the area to be closer to family this time last year, but Laird had lived in the Medford area from age 11 until her high school years, when she attended North Medford High School.

Laird doesn't run with a phone or any sort of running tracking gear, such as a Garmin watch. The family has only one mobile phone, not a smartphone, which was left at the home, Towe said.

“They’re not really technology-based people,” Simon said.

Towe said no scenarios have yet been ruled out in Laird's disappearance.

"I would like to say we have no reason to believe there's any danger to the public, but we're so early in the investigation that it'd be senseless to throw anything out," Towe said. "We need to look at every aspect right now."

Simon created a "Find Ashley Laird" Facebook page Saturday, which is updated with information about the search. Anyone with information is asked to call Jackson County dispatch at 541-776-7206 or 911.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com or 541-776-4471. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe holds a press conference for missing hiker Dr. Ashley Laird, 37, at the Jackson County Sherriff Department on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Jackson County Search and Rescue members regroup at Jacksonville Elementary School after searching for missing hiker Dr. Ashley Laird, 37, on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch