Family of missing woman hopes weekend search in Oregon turns up answers
UMATILLA COUNTY, Ore. – It’s been 118 days since the family and friends of Deb Hendrichs have seen or heard from her. She went missing from Star, Idaho, just outside of Boise, on January 11, 2021.
Her sister Cindy Taylor said it’s taken a toll on all of her loved ones.
“A very long journey, it has been so very consuming,” Taylor said.
“Deb would never leave and not tell anybody, she would never leave her family hanging, she would’ve told me,” Deb’s friend, Debbie Gribble insisted.
Cindy said the last time she talked to Deb was Saturday, January 9th and Deb said some cryptic things that has her trying to figure out if her sister was in danger.
“Things that really make me stop and think, did she know something was going on that she didn’t really come out and say? We have an unspoken communication, and then she also told me never second guess your gut feeling and the third thing she said was – and she was very adamant about this -was not matter what anybody says, you know, you know,” Cindy recalled the conversation.
On the 11th, Deb’s Toyota RAV 4 was discovered on the side of I-84, near Meacham, Oregon.
At the time, no one, including officials, were aware that it belonged to a missing woman.
Cindy obtained a recording between ODOT and Oregon State Patrol, discussing a disabled car on the side of the road.
“Maybe notify OSP if they’re not too busy maybe they could come up and give her a welfare check and potentially help her get some fuel. It was kind of conflicting what she said, she said she had help on the way but she also said she didn’t have cell reception,” an ODOT employee said to a dispatcher.
He then laid flares behind Deb’s car since it was dark outside.
Later in the recording, an ODOT dispatcher is heard talking to an OSP Trooper. He said as another trooper was traveling down I-84, he spotted the RAV 4, with a pickup behind it.
“Apparently the truck was behind the RAV 4 and it was no longer there when he turned around to go,” the trooper explained, “So my female operator from the RAV 4 got a ride to go look for some gas?” asked the ODOT dispatcher.
“That’s what it sounds like,” the trooper replied.
However, family and friends question if Deb was even in the car, or ever made it to Meacham in the first place.
“I don’t think Deb’s there, I don’t think Deb was ever there, I don’t think Deb was in her car,” Debbie said.
Cindy said finding the pickup truck and its driver would be key to the investigation.
“The person in that vehicle, barely rolled their window down and did not make any contact,” she said.
This weekend, the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office is leading a massive search effort for any signs of the missing woman in the Meacham area.
“Specifically, we are searching for remains or any items that are tied into her; we don’t have any more information to whether she would be there or anywhere else, but it helps finally
once and for all for the family get answers, or help the investigation focus elsewhere,” Lieutenant Sterrin Ward said.
The search will consist of dozens of agencies, including drone operators, K9’s, and ground-searchers who will cover 3,959 square acres.
“It’s very methodical and planned out and plotted, and everyone involved on the search when they check in will have a very specific team they’re assigned to and a very specific job they will be given,” Ward explained.
There have been other searches for Deb, but now that the snow has melted, Ward said it’s much safer for crews to explore the area and potentially find anything linked to the missing woman.
Their office is asking residents to be aware of the searchers and anyone who doesn’t live in the area like hunters, to find somewhere else to explore this weekend. Depending on what, if anything, is found, the search could last a day and a half.
In the mean time, Deb’s family and friends just hope they get answers soon.
“She loved everybody everybody was her friend. Answers first, find out what happened, then you betcha if somebody did do something to her justice,” Debbie said.
“I just beg, whoever sees this, if they have anything, no matter how insignificant they think it might be to come forward, to help us. [We] are gonna make sure we do everything in our power to not let this go cold,” Cindy added.
Family members have hired a private investigator to look into Deb’s disappearance. If you have any information, please contact James Terry at (813) 993-2242, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office at (208) 577-3000 or the Oregon State Patrol at (800) 442-2068.
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