Missing Oregon children still sought

March 10, 2002 at 6:16 PM
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OREGON CITY, Ore., March 10 (UPI) -- Searchers ignored showers and a damp chill Sunday as they continued to comb the rain-soaked area around an Oregon apartment complex where two young girls disappeared this year even though a promising lead the day before failed to pan out.

A bloodhound picked up the scent of 13-year-old Miranda Gaddis on Saturday and led police to a supermarket across the street, but there was no sign of the girl and she was not seen on tapes taken by store surveillance cameras.

Miranda disappeared last Friday while on her way to catch her bus to the same middle school where Ashley Pond, 12, was a student until she disappeared on Jan. 9. Ashley and Miranda were members of the school dance team and lived in the same apartment complex in Oregon City, just south of Portland.

"It is very frustrating," Miranda's mother, Michelle Duffey, told the Oregonian on Saturday. "We've talked to anybody and everybody. I hope she calls to let us know she's OK."

Investigators were still not prepared to officially pronounce that the two disappearances were linked or if they were kidnappings, however an FBI command post had been established by late Saturday and authorities indicated it did not appear either of the girls had run away.

Around 70 police and FBI agents spent the weekend looking for Miranda and planned to contact some of the same "persons of interest" who were questioned about the disappearance of the Pond girl.

In a possibly related incident, the Clackamas County Sheriff's office said it wanted to speak to an unknown middle-aged man who had strolled up to an Oregon City school bus on March 6 carrying a shotgun.

"She (the driver) was early to her first stop and was waiting when a man approached her window and asked if she was picking up a kid," the sheriff's office said in a press release. "She saw that he was holding a shotgun next to his side. The man did not threaten her or anyone with either his words or his shotgun. After this brief conversation the man walked away."

Although no children were on the bus and no one was hurt, the incident unnerved school officials enough that two nearby schools -- not the middle school attended by the missing girls -- were locked down for more than hour while deputies looked for the stranger without success.

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