ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - In a time of constant communication and cameras on every corner, people still go missing without a trace. That’s the case for three high-profile missing persons cases in Elmore County.
Susan Osborne, 42, and her son Evan Chartrand, 14, were last seen in 2017 and Starr Mulder, 53, was reported missing the summer of 2016.
Osborne and Chartrand’s family reported them missing on July 29, 2017. We later learned, they’d been missing for months before the report was filed.
At the time Mulder was reported missing, she was experiencing health problems and had plans to travel to UAB. She was living with her ex-husband Thomas Whitehurst at the time of her disappearance.
Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin says there’re persons of interest in the cases, but no arrests.
“Each one of these cases is very unique and different from the other one in a lot of different aspects,” said Franklin. “But we’ve developed a person or persons that are of significant interest to us, and we’ve shared that with the district attorney’s office.”
One of the highest profile missing persons cases in Elmore County: Traci Pittman Kegley. She went missing in 1998, and her car was later recovered on Old Georgia Road near Wetumpka with her toddler safe inside.
In 2018 more than two dozen law enforcement agencies set up a command post in rural Elmore County for a week after they received a viable tip that Kegley’s remains could be in a wooded area near Friendship. The massive four-day search culminated with a combined total of 1,551 miles walked by humans. There were 2,200 photos taken from above by drones, and 35 highly-trained and certified K-9 units were involved. No arrests resulted in the findings.
“One day we’re going to get that one little piece of the puzzle that we can go to the [district attorney’s] office and they say ‘aha’, and we can jump and run with it,” said Franklin. “Then we’ve got a good suspect and we can go ahead and try to get an indictment together and put it before the court.”
Franklin says the tips are still coming in on all cases. Most recently a tip put investigators back on the trail in one case, but he couldn't elaborate.
“We don’t want to tip our hand as to who or what we’re working on because the person of interest - we don’t want them to know exactly what we’re being told or what we’re looking at,” he explained.
In all three cases, no bodies have been recovered.
“You don’t actually have to have the body,” he explained. “A lot of people don’t realize that, but the way it’s been explained to me - you have to at least have knowledge of a body.”
As time passes, Franklin says it's not uncommon for someone to open up.
“A lot of times when time passes, people get a little bit more loose with their information,” Franklin said. “Or it could be that somebody has some intel that they don’t really actually realize, and we’ve seen this happen before.”
He also understands why others don’t want to be thrust into an investigation, which is why they offer a secret witness line.
“If somebody wants to remain anonymous in this day and time, we certainly understand that and appreciate and respect that, but we just need the intel,” Franklin said, explaining the secret witness lines ring to the dispatch operators. “Nobody’s going to bother them, if you’ve got some info on any of these cases, we ask you to call. People don’t realize it but there’s always something a lot of times that’s very insignificant or small that will actually bust the case wide open.”
The Elmore County Secret Witness line is 334-567-5227, again, callers can remain anonymous. Callers can also contact CrimeStopper’s anonymous tip line at 334-215-STOP.