Former Kansas trucker still missing one year later

| Thursday, November 02, 2006

The last time Kim Eastwood saw her father, Richard Lee Clark, he was standing in the yard of her home near Pleasanton, KS.

Now, more than a year later, Eastwood still isn't sure where her dad's gone or what could've happened to him.

Clark, a former OOIDA member, is believed to have wandered off on Oct. 16, 2005. Eastwood said her father, who was 67 years old and had diabetes and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease at the time of his disappearance, may not have been able to find his way home.

Eastwood said she and her family have tried to keep up their hopes throughout the last year. Now, though, those hopes have dwindled and have been replaced by a need for closure.

"I basically have stopped. In my heart, I know my dad's gone," she said. "He couldn't live this long without his family. He wasn't that type of person. There's no way he can be living in a nursing home; there's no way he's living in a shelter. He couldn't survive on his own, without his family."

The search for Clark has led his family - and investigators - through a series of peaks and valleys. For two days following his disappearance, the Linn County Sheriff's Office searched for Clark near Eastwood's home, including in some nearby woods, but there were no clues. 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 several tips, many of which were from truckers.

Although the initial search ended unsuccessfully shortly after Clark's disappearance, Eastwood said the media coverage 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 pick up Clark's trail, five months after his disappearance. Eastwood and Stikes said the dogs followed Clark's scent to the nearby highway, where the missing man could've easily flagged down a ride from a passing trucker. That's where the trail went cold.

Officials have continued to receive tips and sightings throughout the past year. One of the most substantial tips occurred in May 2006 near Mesquite, TX, where police found human remains in a wooded area near the interstate. Using a clay model created by a forensic anthropologist, investigators were able to create a likeness of an individual that was strikingly similar to that of Clark.

Eastwood said that a tip from a Land Line reader in the Mesquite area prompted her to contact investigators, who asked her to submit her DNA for testing in late May 2006. In June this year, officials also asked for DNA from her aunt and uncle on her father's side, to eliminate the possibilities of a false reading.

It's been almost six months since Eastwood submitted the DNA, but the results still aren't back. Detective Michael Meek of the Mesquite Police Department said testing has begun, but could not give a date for when the results would be available.

"Considering that there's one area in this region that does (DNA testing), and they have a lot of missing persons cases that they deal with, they're put on a priority list," Meek said.

Eastwood said her family is anxious for the results, regardless of what they might say.

"It's really left us in a holding pattern," she said. "Do you search or don't you? Do you spend the time and do you spend the money and get everybody involved? Do you waste everybody's time looking for somebody that's already been found when they could be looking for so many more?"

Although the DNA results still aren't back, Eastwood said she's sure her father is gone, one way or another.

"I know he's in heaven - I'm just waiting for the physical evidence, but in my heart, I know," she said. "I don't know that this Mesquite person is absolutely him, but I do know that his body's out there, and it's not his - he's not in his body anymore."

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 editor
aaron_ladage@landlinemag.com

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