Bob Mitchell: Local missing persons are still missing

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

Barry County has had its share of involvement with missing persons over the years, none of which has been solved, according to sheriff Mick Epperly.

In each of the instances, pieces of information still filter to some of those involved and authorities have been involved in some of these contacts.

In at least one of the cases, family members have been cooperative these days in receiving information, hoping some of the facts provided might lead to factual locations, etc., regarding their individual involvement.

Willie Gemmecke

Oldest of these, at least in modern times, was in 1961 when the Seligman community experienced virtually a total involvement in the search for an elderly woman. Her maiden name was Murphy and her going missing provided a shock for the entire county and filtered into the surrounding area.

Mrs. Gemmecke, who suffered a loss of memory (today called Alzheimer's), was on an outing with her son, John, who was a rural mail carrier out of Seligman. He stopped in a wooded area to fix some fencing and a gate. When he returned to his pickup, his mother was gone.

The situation signaled an all-out search effort in southwest Barry County. In those days, the Barry County Sheriff's Posse was operational. During the next month, members of this group and others, even school children, made an effort to find the woman.

Mary Mitchell Davis of Cassville was one of those youngsters who participated in the search though forests.

Theories on the missing included the possibility that Mrs. Gemmecke might have wondered in the area, eventually reaching the road where she was picked up and transported out of the area.

Springfield women

Not long ago, information reached local authorities that the bodies of three Springfield women, missing for years, had been buried in a pond bank in the Washburn Prairie. Sheriff Epperly said this information came from what was considered a reliable source.

As a result of this information, authorities secured the proper permission from landowners and ordered a digging at the site. The site was extensively investigated with no creditable information coming out of the effort.

This case is still open in Greene County from where the women were reported missing after a graduation event.

Christine Seal

Closer to Cassville is the 1972 case of Cassville native Christine Seal, who was residing on a dairy farm with her family in the Verona community. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Doyle Nickle of Cassville, who report there has never been credible information regarding her whereabouts.

Gary McCullough

A Butterfield resident at the time of his disappearance, Gary McCullough has been on the missing persons list since 1999, according to Sheriff Epperly.

McCullough was employed at George's Poultry when he failed to report for work one day. His disappearance touched off a widespread search by authorities and individuals in the area. The family resided between Cassville and Butterfield.

Sheriff Epperly said clues had been scarce in this case, but he is still holding it open in case new information is received.

Off the spike

It was during a Rotary program years ago when a circuit judge from this area -- Robert Stemmons from Mt. Vernon and Cassville attorney Royle Ellis -- were to debate a proposition going before Missouri voters regarding building of mental health facilities.

Judge Stemmons stole the show during his initial remarks, noting that when he and "my worthy opponent, Mr. Ellis, became attorneys, there were few requirements. Actually, all you needed was a smallpox vaccination and a pint of whisky."

That wasn't actually true, but it probably would have won the debate, had it been scored.

Odds and ends

Omitted from a recent wash-day column was a pertinent fact. In those days, there weren't many washing powders available, so those in charge of the usually Monday morning chore would use soap made locally. It was a wonderful day for these folks when less strong detergents came on the market and let them discard the former products used.

During the Christmas season, part of a sermon preached struck home to me and bears repeating even at this late date of the holiday season. Talking about when Christ was actually born, covering the possible different dates of the actual date, Tom Thomas had this to say, "The actual date doesn't matter, it happened!"

Phone scams are becoming more frequent in this area. People having the least little question about these calls should follow the instructions of local authorities and check it out before taking part. Today's advanced technology has made it much easier for scammers to contact people to offer various bogus deals.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.