Search for missing Liberty man enters third day

07/24/2013 11:10 AM

07/25/2013 1:43 PM

The search for a missing Liberty man entered another day Thursday as police searched an area in southern Liberty near railroad tracks.

"Police have search dogs out already this morning along the railroad tracks near Birmingham and Holt," said Tim Fritson, a childhood friend of runner Chad Rogers, who disappeared Monday night after heading out for a run. Fritson, who has been working with investigators, said they are searching the train tracks that run southwest of that area.

Meanwhile, volunteers left the Liberty Christian Fellowship Church a little after 9 a.m. to search an area near Birmingham and Ruth Ewing roads.

Don Elrod of Liberty said that he had seen Rogers before but didn't personally know him.

"I want to help get him back," said Elrod, explaining why he showed up to help search. "I know how I would feel if that was me who was missing."

Volunteers Bill Covey and Richard Liebau, both of Liberty, expressed similar feelings even though they didn't know Rogers.

"If I was lost, I hope someone would come looking for me," Covey said.

Liebau, a former volunteer firefighter, showed up to help for the first time Thursday even though he was supposed to be helping plan his August wedding. "My fiancee knows I like to help people," he said."She's OK with that. I'm from a small town in Georgia. That's what we do."

On Wednesday, volunteers and police with scent-tracking dogs spent a second day in the thickets and thorns searching for Rogers as the scope of the investigation widened to include possible forensic evidence on his phone, computer and social profiles.

But the mystery is taking its toll on his family and others.

Chad’s father, Greg Rogers, was thinking a thousand thoughts.

“Did he get upset about something and then leave? Doubtful,” Rogers said of his son. “It is just not his personality. Did someone hit him with a car and get afraid and take him someplace? If that is the case, we ask them to come back and tell us where he is.

“Is he alive and unable to move? Still a possibility.”

Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday to search for Rogers, a 30-year-old husband and father whose disappearance Monday night has struck a chord in the community.

“The longer it takes, the more distressful it becomes,” said Trish Herzog of Platte City.

And she doesn’t even know Rogers, a former youth pastor who grew up in Liberty. He and his wife, Sarah, and their 13-month-old son moved back to Liberty from Jefferson City late last year.

Terry Coleman, who said he is a former Army Ranger, attends church with Rogers’ family. Coleman showed up for the search in camouflage and snakeproof boots and with provisions for an all-nighter if necessary.

“It’s been amazing, the outreach,” Greg Rogers said. “You realize how blessed you are with all this support.”

Wednesday morning, a second K-9 dog in as many days detected a scent for Chad Rogers in the same area near Birmingham and Ruth Ewing roads and Shannon and Holt drives. The area, west of Missouri 291, contains a subdivision as well as heavy woods and soybean fields.

After a few hours, the dog was retired and the volunteers were deployed. Then in the late afternoon, another team of six scent dogs was deployed until dark, said Fritson.

Rogers is a marathoner who frequently runs up to 15 miles along different routes.

But the search area Wednesday included deep brush with 6-foot-tall Johnson grass. Searchers working in teams of 10 to 12 people spent as long as an hour toiling in the weeds Wednesday afternoon before being relieved by other shifts.

The Liberty Police Department is the lead agency, but several surrounding law enforcement agencies offered assistance. A Kansas City police helicopter used infrared sensing Tuesday night.

Fritson said the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday took electronic devices belonging to Rogers and planned to examine them and his social media entries for clues or deleted messages.

Liberty Christian Fellowship has become the headquarters for people wanting to help — and the place where businesses and other groups have brought donations of meals, snacks, water, flashlights and bug spray.

Many volunteers arrived at 8 a.m. Wednesday but waited until midafternoon for authorities to deploy them. As they went out, Greg Rogers said, he was filled with both “hope and dread” that his son would be found.

Caleb Eissler of Kansas City didn’t know Chad but knows members of his family and felt compelled to help.

“I know I would want someone to do this for my family,” Eissler said.

Beth Zumhofe took off from her realty job Wednesday to help.

“I have two legs that work and a set of lungs,” she said. “I can be doing this as opposed to anything else.”

The searchers spread out in lines with arms stretched out to cover a piece of territory. If anyone saw something of interest, that person was to call out for an investigator to mark the spot. Zumhofe said the brush was so thick in places that she could not see her feet.

It’s not the only missing person case catching public attention this summer. While the search for Rogers continues, the family of Hellen Cook is entering a 13th day of agonized uncertainty by bringing in cadaver dogs.

Cook, a great-grandmother from Buckner, disappeared July 13 in Benton County, Mo. After extensive publicity and searches in Jackson and Benton counties, investigators on Thursday plan to deploy dogs that can detect human scent, whether dead or alive.

The dogs will search near Warsaw, Mo., near the spot Cook was last seen.

The Cooks are sympathetic to the Rogers family and are willing to offer support and any help they can.

“We understand the feelings of worry and helplessness that are being experienced right now by Chad Rogers’ loved ones,” said Terri Cook, Hellen’s daughter. “Getting support from a family that’s been there is just priceless.”

She said her family has benefited from advice offered by Greg and Missey Smith of Overland Park, whose 18-year-old daughter, Kelsey Smith, was missing four days before being found murdered in 2007.

Fritson said volunteers wishing to help with the search for Chad Rogers are asked to gather at 8 a.m. Thursday at Liberty Christian Fellowship church, 1815 W. Liberty Drive.

Authorities said they should also go to

https://www.facebook.com/BringChadRogersHome

for guidance.

“We are trying to remain hopeful, but this is becoming more difficult as time passes,” said Fritson, a youth pastor at Liberty Christian Fellowship.

Rogers was last seen wearing a bright orange visor with Newton Running printed on it, black running shorts and red running shoes. He was not wearing a shirt and reportedly did not carry a phone.

He is white, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 175 pounds. He has a shaven head and tattoos on both arms, across his upper chest and on both thighs and his right calf.

Rogers became youth director at First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City in 2011 and held that position until moving back to Liberty last fall.

Greg Rogers said his son and his family were living with him until they could sell their house in Jefferson City. Sarah Rogers works for the Missouri Department of Social Services. Chad presently is a stay-at-home dad.

Greg Rogers said his son has been an avid runner since he was 7 years old and had run cross-country at Liberty High School. He has run at least 11 marathons and was preparing for the Kansas City Marathon in October.

“It’s been torturous, just the not knowing,” said Greg Rogers, adding that he is a person of faith.

“I have a very strong faith in God and, whether I like it or not, his will be done,” Rogers said. “What that will is has yet to be determined.”

Anyone with information about Chad Rogers is asked to call the police at 816-439-4701.

Star reporter Robert Cronkleton contributed to the reporting of this story.