No leads in disappearance of Grass Valley woman

Wilma Mott Barnhart did some shopping, got some gas, and pulled several hundred dollars out of a bank ATM two Sundays ago.

And then she vanished without a trace.

The 74-year-old Grass Valley woman was last seen July 7. Since then, concerned friends and family have organized multiple searches, even calling in the county’s Search and Rescue team to accompany a psychic up to a remote state park area.

“There are still no leads,” Grass Valley Police Capt. Rex Marks said Thursday. “We have been following up on all the calls we’ve gotten, and we continue to hope for the best.”

Barnhart lives alone at a mobile home park on Primrose Lane. She was supposed to spend the night that Sunday either at the Lake Englebright home of longtime friend Sheri Anastasio or the residence of another friend off Rattlesnake Road.

She never showed up at either house, even though the power for the mobile home park was scheduled to be turned off that night.

She was reported missing July 10 and Grass Valley Police officers put out an advisory and a missing-persons report; they subsequently issued a Silver Alert July 13.

The California Highway Patrol has done a flyover of the areas Barnhart might have traveled through and saw no sign of her vehicle, and her friends have covered many of the areas she might have traveled, as well.

Another search is set for Saturday; searchers will be meeting at 9:30 a.m. at Prosperity Lanes, 420 Henderson St., Grass Valley.

Barnhart shopped at Rite Aid at 10:52 a.m. July 7, then bought gas from Flyers on Plaza Drive at about 12:12 p.m. She also used her debit card at a Bank of America ATM machine on South Church Street in Grass Valley at about 1:20 p.m..

There has been no further financial activity recorded for Barnhart, Marks said.

Barnhart’s disappearance is unusual because she had no known health issues.

“We don’t get a lot of missing persons in general,” Marks said. “It’s more common to have dementia issues in older people who wander off, but they are usually found within a short time. We do get (juvenile) runaways, but they usually come back in a few days. It’s not common to have long-term disappearances.”

What has made the search for Barnhart so frustrating is that there is no indication of where she might have been going.

“We’ve looked everywhere we could possibly look,” Anastasio said.

She said she drove through a lot of the outlying areas around Oregon House and Brownsville Monday, dropping off fliers everywhere she could.

“It was a very upsetting day,” she said.

“You couldn’t find anyone more friendly than Wilma,” Anastasio continued. “You couldn’t find anyone more giving … Did someone take advantage of that?”

Visions by mediums take searchers far afield

Terry Kennedy, who has been helping to organize the searches for Barnhart, has been contacted by three different “mediums,” or psychics, who say they have had intuitive hits on her whereabouts.

On Tuesday, Kennedy accompanied members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team to a remote area of Nevada County where, he said, two mediums felt Barnhart might be.

“We offered our assistance,” said Sgt. Sam Brown. “The problem is, there’s been no location to search, so we’ve been on standby.”

When the team was asked to meet with the psychic, “I said, sure, whatever it takes,” Brown said.”Sometimes these people comes through.”

Search and Rescue volunteers spent several hours combing through some of the areas identified by the medium, but none of the leads panned out.

Brown said what was thought to be drag marks appeared to have been made by animals, noting that team members did see bear scat and tracks.

“The psychic believed (Barnhart) had been attacked and was hurt,” Brown said. “But there was no evidence of that.”

“She said she was in contact with her soul,” he said, adding it was not clear if Barnhart was alive or dead.

On Wednesday, Kennedy said he returned to the same vicinity with a second medium.

“They were both telling me the same area,” he said. “Right now, I’m looking into all aspects. … I’m not going to leave a stone unturned.”

Anastasio said she had been contacted by a medium, as well.

“She said they were looking in the wrong area,” Anastasio said.

“She said Wilma was by a gorge, with no water. She has her shoes off and she’s waiting for somebody to find her.”

The medium mentioned Barnhart’s husband’s name, “which was weird,” Anastasio said. “How could she know that?”

Anastasio expressed ambivalence about the psychic tips.

“It brings hope,” she said. “But it’s been way too long.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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The Union Updated Jul 26, 2013 04:27PM Published Jul 30, 2013 12:33AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.