PARKERSBURG, WV (WOWK) — The search continues for a Parkersburg woman missing since December 2022.
Parkersburg police say they have a person of interest, but many questions remain including where Gretchen Fleming is now. Hundreds of volunteers helped with a search earlier this month.
Like many grandmothers, it would be hard to convince Louise Fleming that her granddaughter isn’t the most beautiful in the world.
“She’s really a sweet lovely young lady and she’s so pretty,” Louise Fleming said. “I’ve often told her she reminds me of Audrey Hepburn with her high cheekbones.”
But she hasn’t seen her granddaughter Gretchen Fleming’s pretty face in person since December.
“I took her to the mall to drop her off for work on Saturday, December 3 at about 1:15 p.m.,” Louise Fleming said. “She never came home that night. But once in a while she’d go to a friend’s and stay for 2 or 3 days. I didn’t think anything of it because she was 27 years old. But then, she didn’t come home.”
Fleming was living with Louise. Her family officially reported her missing just over a week later.
“As a couple of days had went by, a week had went by they became concerned,” said Detective James Zimmerman, Parkersburg Police Department. “That is when they contacted us to do the investigation and obviously through that we did have a week behind. But we’ve made progress through the investigation.”
People saw Fleming out on the town the night of Dec. 3. She left behind her purse and everything in it.
“She just kind of vanished from a local bar hangout area,” said David Fleming, Gretchen’s father.
Parkersburg police say they have surveillance video of Gretchen Fleming leaving the My Way Lounge with the person that is now considered a person of interest.
“The last time that we could definitively put her at a location or with someone was December 4 during the early morning hours,” said Parkersburg Police Chief Matt Board. “So shortly after getting that timeline together they were able to make contact with that person that she was last seen with during the early morning hours and speak with them.”
He said investigators have executed several search warrants.
“Ultimately we executed a multitude of search warrants pertaining to the person of interest,” Board said. “Being at his residence, an off-site location that he had access to, a vehicle and multiple electronic devices.”
Recently the department asked for the community’s help searching nearby Mountwood Park.
More than 450 people volunteered their time on a chilly Saturday morning to help police follow up on a tip searching the 2,500-acre park. Seeing the cars file in moved Louise Fleming to tears.
“I didn’t dream there would be this many people. It is just unreal. God has answered our prayers by giving us help. I have mixed emotions today. I want her found but I’m afraid they’ll find her,” Louise said.
Some of the volunteers who came out to help were friends of the Fleming family. But most were strangers, some from several states away, who were moved by Gretchen’s story.
Searchers spent several hours in the woods looking for answers but found nothing conclusive.
Gretchen’s case has attracted attention well beyond the borders of Wood County. The family is offering a hefty reward for information relating to Gretchen’s case. So far, that person of interest from the surveillance video hasn’t been arrested and hasn’t been officially named by police.
“It is still in the investigation stage,” Board said. “I know that seems slow and taxing but quite honestly it is still a quite fluid investigation. We’ve executed 10 search warrants and are still waiting on evidence to come back from the state laboratory. So I know the community sometimes gets very concerned that you know that we’ve become idle or stagnate or we’ve redirected our focus to other investigations, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes it is just a slow methodical process and that is where we are at.”
Board said the department is in frequent contact with Fleming’s family and they are still working with the community to follow up on tips and gather new information.
“It is not that we are not talking to the public about what we are doing but we also have the responsibility of keeping the integrity and the continuity of the investigation preserved as well,” Board said. “Ultimately we do want to find Gretchen but we also have a criminal investigation that goes along with that.”
For the people who love Gretchen most, some days it is more difficult to stay strong, but they are holding on to hope.
“I don’t know, it is just so hard,” Louise said. “Each day she’s gone it just gets harder.”
If you have any information that could help investigators with this case you are urged to call the Parkersburg Police Department. You can reach Detective Zimmerman at 304-424-1072.
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