Volunteers cover county for 'The Shelbyville Missing'
There were tears in Lillie Buchanan's eyes Saturday morning as she stood on the steps of Bedford County Agriculture and Education Center on Midland Road and watched the trailers of local search and rescue groups pull in to the parking lot.
It had been 11 years and 11 months to the day since her grandson, Antonio "Tony" Taylor, 21, had left her home with a wave. She's not seen him since.
"I'm trying not to cry," Buchanan said, as she watched a steady stream of volunteers continue to arrive, signing their names on a roster and being dispatched to one of a dozen locations, or simply dropping off baked goods, food and cases of water and sports drinks. "I've always kept the faith."
After a series of articles appeared in the Times-Gazette in mid-June, the families joined forces to find those who are now referred to on flyers, banners and T-shirts as The Shelbyville Missing. Bobby Smelcer, 52, and Shelley Jones Mook, 24, disappeared within four months of one another, in November 2010 and in February 2011, respectively.
With Bedford County Search and Rescue coordinating the logistics for the search, volunteer groups from Coffee County and Smyrna were on hand, as were the United Auto Workers search and rescue group from Nashville. Volunteers brought horses, cadaver dogs and water cadaver dogs to assist in the search.
"We have had the dogs show interest in three areas -- all of which are in quarries," said Kristy Ray, a sister of Smelcer.
"We had over 100 volunteers sign in this morning, plus the search and rescue teams," said Karen Harris, another of Smelcer's sisters. Search and rescue teams signed up separately with the local group.
According to Harris, at one location, two separate dog teams hit on a scent in the same spot. Boaters with sonar confirmed and at press time divers were in transit.
Searches were also being conducted in an area along Coney Island Road, at Dover Creek and near Interstate 24 in Beech Grove.
The search locations were identified through tips made to the family over time. According to Buchanan, a farm near Unionville had often been the topic of the rumors reported to the family over the past 12 years. After the T-G series ran, she received a tip about an area in Richmond from an anonymous caller.
Debra Sikora, the mother of Harris Middle School reading teacher Mook, said she was thankful for the turnout.
Rochelle Adams, Taylor's mother, was visibly affected by the volume of volunteers on hand,
"Finally, finally -- after all these years, to see all these people come together and go look for Tony, I don't know what to say."
Buchanan does know. "I knew God did this from the day [the T-G] came in my living room," she said. "God is in this. He knows what He's doing."
Rewards for information concerning the disappearances of Smelcer and Taylor are $5,000 and $3,000 respectively. Contact the Shelbyville Police Department at 684-5811 or anonymously at Crimestoppers at 685-4300.
The reward for information concerning the disappearance of Shelley Jones Mook is $20,000. Contact the Bedford County Sherriff's Department at 684-3232.
- Search for the Shelbyville Missing (08/20/11)