Search teams find missing woman

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A large group of volunteers spent a good portion of their Memorial Day weekend scouring the Piney Creek Wilderness Area near Shell Knob for a missing 87-year-old woman.

Search and rescue crews were able to locate Mary Lou Slawson at around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, two days after her family first reported her disappearance. She was found alive, lying in a wooded area next to a log with her dog by her side.

Rescue crews immediately treated Slawson for dehydration and then carried her out of the woods on a backboard for a mile through rough terrain. She was then transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

According to Sheriff Mick Epperly, Slawson survived two thunderstorms and heavy rain before rescuers found her.

"This area was in rough terrain and time was a factor for Ms. Slawson," said Sheriff Epperly. "This could have ended in tragedy; however, with so many caring people in Barry County, it was a blessing knowing that Ms. Slawson was found alive and safe. I want to thank everyone for their unselfish acts of kindness."

The search for the missing woman began on the afternoon of Sunday, May 25 when Chief Deputy Leonard Collins, Investigator Brian Martin and Officer Donnie Sheets arrived at the spot off of Highway 76-86 where Slawson was last seen.

Sheriff Mick Epperly called in members of the Barry County Search and Rescue team who were assisted by Central Crossing Fire and Rescue, the Missouri Conservation Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, U.S. Forestry rangers and Newton County Search and Rescue.

"There were also numerous dog teams, volunteers on mules and horses and volunteers walking," said Sheriff Epperly.

In all, Epperly estimates there were 75 to 80 people searching for Slawson, who was eventually found about two miles from her home.

The searchers received support from Country Fresh Market and Pizza Hut in Shell Knob, which provided volunteers with food and drink. Slawson's family provided a shop building where members of the search team could gather out of the rain.

"There were so many volunteers and too many to mention individually," said the sheriff. "I just want to personally thank everyone that took time out of their Memorial Day weekend to help find Ms. Slawson."

According to Epperly, Slawson was raised in the area and often took long walks near her home accompanied by her dog.

"We wondered where her dog was, and when we found her, we realized that the dog had stayed with her the whole time," said Epperly.

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