One week after Berkeley Springs teen Riley Crossman was reporting missing by her family, close to 350 volunteers and dozens more law enforcement personnel spread out across Morgan County in a coordinated search to look for any clues or signs of her whereabouts. By the end of the day Wednesday, 16 teams of searchers had reported back to the county’s Emergency Operations Center to list what roads and areas they had scoured, and what clues they had found. According to police, teams reported finding a few cell phones and some articles of clothing, none of them specific to Crossman.
Riley Crossman, a 15 year old Berkeley Springs High School student, has not been seen since Tuesday, May 7. Her mother reported her missing when Crossman didn’t show up for school and didn’t return home as usual on Wednesday afternoon. Crossman’s family is insistent that their daughter would not have run away. They believe she was abducted.
Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said Wednesday evening that the coordinated search by community members, volunteers and law enforcement aided his department’s investigation, even though it didn’t turn up either Riley Crossman or definitive clues. It was not the first search for Crossman, but was the largest scale public effort to find her so far.
“That really allowed us to be much more thorough,” he said of the search effort.
“We’ll be evaluating the investigative leads from today and will regroup tomorrow,” Bohrer said. More specialized searches by trained dogs could continue on Thursday.
Hundreds of people showed up at The Pines Opportunity Center in Berkeley Springs on Wednesday morning, many carrying walking sticks and backpacks. They were asked to sign in, and then divided into groups led by law enforcement officers or local volunteers with specialized knowledge about certain areas of the county. Teams were sent to Cacapon State Park, all through Berkeley Springs, Coolfont/Cold Run Valley Road, the Potomac River bridge, Lover’s Leap, all CSX railroad properties, Great Cacapon, Largent, Magnolia, Paw Paw, River Road, Sleepy Creek state lands and Sir Johns Run.
Teams were asked to look along roadsides, in culverts, around abandoned buildings, in dumpsters and freezers and anywhere a person could be hidden. Volunteers moved in groups, walking miles of county roads and power lines, marking any unusual items in the woods and scanning fields and forests for signs of Crossman.
Church groups and other donors set up food and water stations for search teams. The weather was clear and bright all day, favoring the search effort.
In addition to individual search volunteers, Sheriff Bohrer said officers from surrounding areas spread out across Morgan County, some with K-9 help. Agencies included city police and county Sheriff’s Departments from Frederick County, Va., Berkeley and Jefferson counties, Hagerstown, Md. and fire department personnel from around the region. Search and rescue teams from multiple jurisdictions were also on scene. Volunteers searched the Potomac River with boats.
Lance Crossman, Riley’s father, spoke to the gathered crowd of volunteers this morning before they broke up into groups to search for his daughter. He thanked them for their efforts to bring her home, his voice shaking as he acknowledged the family was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Among the volunteers were people from areas surrounding Morgan County, many of them without ties to the family or community. Several said they heard about Crossman’s disappearance and the coordinated search and decided to come help. One woman from the Charles Town area said she is a mother and grandmother, and if her child was missing, she’d want everyone to stop what they were doing and find her. Other volunteers voiced the same desire to help Crossman’s family in whatever way they could.
Sheriff Bohrer said Wednesday evening that his investigators and those he has brought in for extra help are reviewing and all video evidence available to them in the vicinity of the Crossman residence on the corner of Greenway Drive and U.S. 522. He said invesigators are also looking closely at cell phone and social media activity associated with Crossman. Her family has said that Riley’s phone has been inactive since last Wednesday.
The Sheriff’s Department is being assisted on the case by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI, West Virginia State Police, Department of Homeland Security and area police agencies. National news outlets have reported on Crossman’s disappearance and posters showing her photo and physical description continue to circulate widely on social media.
Bohrer said investigators would appreciate any current information about Crossman, stressing that tips about very recent activity are most helpful. The department can be reached at 304-258-1067.