Hayden A new development in the 20-year-old Marie Blee case is giving the parents of the missing girl, who apparently believe Marie is dead, some renewed hope in the search for their daughter's body.
The family has welcomed the assistance of a woman whom Moffat County Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg described as a "psychic." The woman reportedly feels strongly that she can assist the Blees in finding their daughter's remains.
Hoberg said that the woman has helped in another disappearance case.
"Apparently, she helped the parents of a missing girl in the Grand Junction area. After meeting the family of the missing girl, she felt that the girl was in a ditch in a certain area. The police found the girl dead in the ditch," he said.
The missing girl was 15-year-old Marri Opsal of Palisade. She was reported missing by her family on July 24, 1995, and was later found in an irrigation ditch, the Highline Canal, on Aug. 1, 1995. The Highline Canal runs through Mesa County and provides water to orchards in the area, said Janet Prell, a Mesa County Sheriff's Office representative.
"She had supposedly been drinking 'moon flower tea,' a hallucinogenic that people brew," Prell, said. "It's been reported that the tea gives people the desire to be near water. Investigators believed the girl entered the canal on her own. The girl was a known drug-user."
Prell said that Opsal had been with a group of friends who were all high on the tea when she disappeared, so her friends were unable to offer much assistance to police. After searching the area where she was last seen, investigators were unable to locate Opsal. The sheriff's office was later called to the canal when police were told that someone had seen a body, Prell said.
The Mesa County Coroner, Dr. Robert Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist, said the girl's death was deemed a drowning. He also said there was evidence that the girl had been smoking jimsonweed, a tall poisonous plant with bad-smelling foliage and large white or violet flowers.
"Sometimes drugs aren't in the system to the level that they can be detected at the time of death and other times, drug levels may decrease (after death)," he said.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office did not have any information about a person with psychic tendencies helping in the Opsal case. But Mona Blee, Marie's mother, said the woman helped the family, not police.
"She's not a psychic, she just gets feelings. She's a friend of ours and this seems promising," Blee said. "But, just about anything's promising. We'd like to see this come to a conclusion."
Blee said the friend recently visited Craig and Hayden and deemed the trip successful. Blee said the woman plans several more trips in the future.
The similarities between Opsal and Blee go further than the deaths of the two teen-age girls. Both were nearly the same age at the time of their disappearance, both were known drug-users and both girls were from Hayden.
Marri Opsal, born in 1980, was adopted by Paul and Jeanine Opsal from someone living in Oak Creek. The Opsals lived in Hayden for approximately 10 years and lived at Meadow Village Trailer Park, the same trailer park where Marie Blee lived with her family, Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan said.
"There are a lot of coincidences between the two girls," Lenahan said. "It sure makes you wonder."
Hoberg is not concerned about whether the "psychic" woman is legitimate because she isn't asking the family or the police for compensation for her efforts.
"This woman is a friend of the Blees," Hoberg said. "She said she has feelings about Marie. I don't normally believe in these sorts of things, but I don't discount it either. The thing I like most about this woman is that she isn't asking for any money to help the family."
Investigators in the case used a psychic in the early '80s but efforts were unsuccessful and the psychic wanted to be paid for his efforts, Hoberg said.
"This woman has feelings about the Blees' loss," he said. "She gets feelings about Marie. Who knows? She may turn something up."
Blee disappeared from a party in Craig in 1979. Police investigating the case have had difficulty in nailing down witnesses over the years because there were approximately 50 to 100 people attending the party -- a party where alcohol and drugs were readily available, investigators say.
Now, 20 years later, a task force has been formed to try to solve teen's disappearance. The task force includes members of the FBI, Moffat and Routt county deputies and Hayden and Craig police.
Authorities have been searching sites in Routt and Moffat counties that witnesses say are locations where Blee's body may have been dumped or buried the night she disappeared. Although the task force has yet to discover human remains, the members are hopeful something will eventually turn up. The "psychic" also has identified new locations that investigators say are viable areas where Blee could be buried and they plan to search those areas as soon as the spring mud dries.
-- To reach Bryna Larsen call 871-4205 or e-mail email@example.com