Wednesday, August 9, 2000
Hayden After a disappointing summer of unsuccessful searches, a task force investigating a 20-year-old missing person case is adjusting its tactics and hoping that exposure from a national television show may lead to a break in the case.
"Until someone comes forward to identify an area with specifics, I'm not sure how many lengthy, widespread searches we can do," Moffat County Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg said.
Several fruitless searches for Hayden teen Marie Blee have taken up staff hours and money that the police departments and sheriffs' offices involved need for other work, he said. "It shouldn't be the case, but it always is," Hoberg added.
Some help may come from MSNBC, which has produced a missing persons documentary series that includes the stories of Marie Blee's disappearance and investigation. The series will be aired sometime before the end of the year.
"We're hopeful we'll help find some people and solve some cases for families, loved ones and law enforcement," said Audrey Yi, segment producer for MSNBC's "Missing Persons Documentaries." "We're hoping that through this added exposure, people might be found or cases might be solved."
Yi is not sure how MSNBC researchers came upon the Blee story, but said it's possible it was found over the Internet.
The Blee family and the task force are hopeful, too, that the documentary series, which will be made up of five segments, will uncover new leads in the case.
Although many bones have been found during the task force's various searches, all of them have been identified as animal bones at this point. Several of sites searched were identified by a friend of the Blees family who Hoberg described as having "psychic" feelings.
Steamboat pathologist Dr. Bill Cox volunteered his time to help search the sites and was able to identify most of the bones as non-human, although some pieces found in Routt and Moffat counties were so small, he could not positively identify them.
"He thinks they're all animal bones, but we didn't want to guess," Hoberg said. The small bones have been sent to a pathologist in Denver for identification.
Should the bones prove to be human, a lock of Marie Blee's hair could be used for comparative DNA testing.
"The searches of previous places haven't turned up anything," Hoberg said. "With such big sections of land, what's the chance? There is one, but even a thorough search hasn't turned anything up yet."
Nevertheless, Hoberg said, the task force still has "some aces up its sleeve," and that by no means is it near closing the case.
In lieu of searching for clues or the remains of the missing girl over the surface of hundreds of acres in northwestern Colorado, the task force is now putting extra emphasis on pursuing some 25 to 30 interviews.
"We're not confident we're going to solve the case, but we are confident there are people out there who know things," Hoberg said. "For example, I just finished interviewing someone who has given me a new lead."
He declined to explain the lead further.
There are a number of theories that police have heard repeatedly in interviews. For example, some sources say Blee died of a drug overdose and the people she was with buried her body.
Despite the sometimes gruesome and tragic details of interviews that are relayed at monthly task force meetings, Marie's parents, Paul and Mona Blee, have attended each meeting.
"It's been so long, it's not a big issue putting someone in jail. That's not what they want. They just want to find her remains and bury her," Hoberg said. "They want their daughter back."
Marie Blee disappeared in November 1979. The case was reopened June 1999, and is being pursued by a task force composed of Moffat and Routt County investigators, Craig and Hayden police and FBI agents.
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