Monday, May 4, 2009

Mother, daughter of missing women to search the desert

BARSTOW • The mother of one missing woman and the daughter of another will join forces this upcoming weekend to search for traces of their family members.

For the eighth time since 30-year-old mother of two April Beth Pitzer went missing in June of 2004, her mother, Gloria Denton, will travel to the Barstow area from Arkansas to join searchers May 9 and 10 in looking for her daughter’s body or any evidence that might explain what happened to her.

Stephanie Thompson, whose mother, Catherine “Cathy” Lique, disappeared from Barstow in November 2003 at age 44, joined in the search for Pitzer last year, hoping at the same time to find some trace of her mother. This year is the first time that the search will officially be for both women.

Thompson said Friday she and Denton found out just recently that Lique and Pitzer had met before, at the home of a woman in Yermo with whom Lique was staying for a while, and who also knew Pitzer’s boyfriend at the time.

Denton said Pitzer went to Newberry Springs in 2003 on what was intended to be a short trip after her marriage fell apart. Instead, she ended up stranded there, homeless and associated with unsavory people, Denton said. However, before Pitzer disappeared, Denton said she was planning to come home to start fresh with her estranged husband and two daughters, then three and five years old.

Lique was a truck stop prostitute who drifted around Barstow, Thompson said. Although Thompson had moved to Oregon with her father after her parents divorced, she tried to keep track of her mother. When her brother told her that no one had heard from Lique in a while, and then no one reported seeing her for another week, Thompson filed a missing person’s report.

Lique’s boyfriend at the time said she had left one morning with nothing but a red San Francisco 49ers jacket and never showed back up, Thompson said. Authorities may have initially assumed that Lique had just skipped town, she said.

“My mom wasn’t some pretty young girl who just crazily went missing,” she said.

Search for April Pitzer and Catherine “Cathy” Lique:
When: Saturday May 9, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday May 10, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Meet both days at The Barn in Newberry Springs, 44560 National Trails Highway. Search will cover area around Interstate 15 and around a mine in Ludlow where some of Pitzer’s clothes were found in December 2005.
Bring: snacks/lunch, water (organizers will provide water as well), large stick in case of encountering snakes
Off-road vehicles are also needed for the search
Burgers and hot dogs to be provided after the search Saturday
For more information, call 479-774-2410.

Still, Thompson said her mother would have eventually contacted the family if she had been able to, especially when Lique’s own mother died.

Thompson got in touch with Denton about a year and a half ago, after hearing a rumor that Lique had been killed and her body dumped in Newberry Springs, which led her to wonder if the case was connected to Pitzer’s disappearance. The two women have stayed in contact ever since.

“I get very discouraged a lot, and having Gloria on my side, she has definitely been a godsend,” Thompson said.

Barstow police never named a suspect in Lique’s disappearance. Pitzer’s case has also stalled, Det. Steve Pennington with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department homicide unit said. Some of Pitzer’s clothing was found in a mine shaft in Ludlow in December 2005. A message on the
wall of a truck stop in Oregon discovered in September 2004 read, “Want to find missing girl from Arkansas? I-15 3 miles east of Barstow.”

However, the leads came to dead ends.

“There’s people out there that have information, but they’re just not coming forward,” Pennington said.
To report information relating to Pitzer’s disappearance, call the Barstow sheriff’s station at 760-256-4123. To report information on the Lique case, call the Barstow Police Department at 760-256-2211. To remain anonymous, call WE-TIP at 1-800-78-CRIME.

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