Hope remains as six-month anniversary of missing trucker nears

| 3/31/2006

It’s been nearly six months since Richard Lee Clark went missing in rural Kansas, but investigators and the family of the retired trucker believe he’s alive – and he could still be near trucking.

At approximately 6 p.m. on Oct. 16, Clark, 67, a former OOIDA member, wandered away from his daughter’s home near Pleasanton, KS. Kim Eastwood, Clark’s daughter, said that her father has diabetes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, and that he may not be able to remember his address to find his way home. She is also concerned that he may not even realize he is missing.

“I don’t know that he’s not out there with the truckers trying to make money and come back home, and just not know where home’s at,” Eastwood said.

According to a police report, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office searched for Clark near Eastwood’s home the evening he was reported missing and the following day before. There was no sign of Clark in the area and the search was called off.

A number of media outlets, including Land Line, reported on the story immediately after Clark’s disappearance. Linn County Sheriff Marvin Stikes said his office received six to eight tips, four of which were from truckers. However, none of the tips turned up any helpful information.

Although the initial search ended shortly after Clark’s disappearance, Eastwood said the media coverage recently caught the attention of a search-and-rescue dog trainer from Bangor, ME, who traveled with her dogs to Kansas to do a search.

The dogs were able to follow Clark’s trail, even though it had been five months since his disappearance. Eastwood and Stikes said the dogs lost the scent near the highway, where the missing man could’ve easily flagged down a ride from a passing trucker.

Stikes said he still believes Clark is alive. He said the dogs’ search, as well as a number of tips and sightings, have led investigators to believe he may have hitched a ride with another trucker.

Stikes said it is also possible that Clark is in the nearby community of Louisburg, KS. Immediately following his disappearance, police followed up on a sighting of Clark at a grocery store in Louisburg, as well as a separate alleged sighting at a truck stop in Ohio, neither of which has resulted in any leads.

Clark, also known as “Papa,” is described as a white male, 5’10”, 130 pounds, with white hair, brown eyes and a light complexion. He is missing all of his teeth except for his front teeth. On the night of his disappearance, Clark was wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans, grey athletic shoes, a leather belt and a stainless steel wind-up watch.

Eastwood believes her father’s dementia may cause him to believe he is still employed as a trucker, and he may have hitched a ride on a truck without informing the driver that he was lost or missing.

Having grown up with her father as a trucker, Eastwood said she has fond memories of Clark coming home from the road with only half of the clothes he took with him, or with a passenger who couldn’t afford shelter for the night. She said she is certain that if he is with a trucker, he is in good hands.

“I’m sure if he’s out with the truckers, he’s probably taken showers and shaven, and somebody’s probably given him some clothes,” Eastwood said. “They’re notorious for that. Truckers are giving creatures.”

Stikes – a former owner-operator himself – said he hopes the trucking industry can shed new light on the case.

“If he followed the trucking industry, it’s quite possible that he might be traveling in that circle,” Stikes said.

Anyone with information regarding Clark’s case can contact the Linn County Sheriff’s Department at (913) 795-2666. Additional information can be found on the National Center for Missing Adults Web site at www.missingadults.org.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer