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Search for missing man continues in Callaway County

Search for missing man continues in Callaway County

July 16th, 2018 by Jenny Gray and Helen Wilbers in Local News
Jerry Kinman

MILLERSBURG After over two days of intense searching for a missing man in the Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area continued Monday, the mood among searchers seemed grim.

"We are always hopeful, (but we also) realize the current weather conditions are not favorable to this situation," said Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism.

Jerry Kinman, 74, has been missing since Friday evening. His family remains hopeful, and locals are working on coordinating volunteers to join the search.

"(The searchers) have done a good job," said Jack Woodbury, Kinman's son-in-law. "We've beat the bush pretty hard, and now we're starting to move away from the lake."

According to family members, Kinman, who has Parkinson's disease, apparently went out fishing Friday evening.

"He didn't usually go out very far," said Lt. Curtis Hall of the sheriff's department. "He usually stayed out behind his house. He wasn't even wearing shoes, just house slippers."

About 4 a.m. Saturday morning, Kinman called his wife to say he'd fallen, been rained on and needed medical assistance. He couldn't give an exact location, Hall said. First responders arriving on the scene saw no sign of Kinman. His family attempted to reach him again by phone.

"He did manage to get one phone call in to them," Hall said. "He said, 'I'm down here by' and like any tragic story, the phone died."

"Pinging" Kinman's phone didn't nail down a specific location, and eventually the phone stopped responding, indicating the battery had died or the phone was turned off or broken. Hall said he thinks it's unlikely Kinman left the Little Dixie Lake area.

Chism said extensive resources have been used including helicopter, boat, drones, UTVs, search dogs, specially trained search and rescue personnel from a nationally certified search and rescue team, and numerous emergency personnel.

On Sunday, searchers dredged the lake and led a cadaver-sniffing dog around the shore, turning up nothing.

The search continued during daylight hours Saturday and Sunday, and Callaway County deputies and Missouri conservation agents conducted overnight checks and searches of the area. Also assisting are local residents, Missouri Task Force One, Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Highway Patrol troopers.

"The area is an open public area and there are approximately 6 miles in trails alone around the lake," Chism said in a news release. "In all, the conservation area encompasses 733 acres. For those citizens who do respond to the area, we'd ask they ensure their own safety by staying hydrated and following established trails and paths."

Searchers have endured temperatures above 90 degrees — punishing conditions for even the young, fit and well-hydrated.

Emergency personnel already have contacted several area nearby private property landowners, Chism added.

"But for those whom personnel could not reach, we are most appreciative of any efforts they make to check their property periodically," he said.

The search initially focused on a half-mile area surrounding Kinman's house and the lake shore. By Monday, the search area had expanded to include back roads, adjacent properties and the tangle of trails stretching deep into the conservation area.

Community reacts

Woodbury and his friend Kenny Ridgway said the community has been supportive.

A retired Baptist pastor from Arizona, Kinman and wife Earlene arrived in Millersburg about six months ago. Area residents have already rallied to help with the search.

Tim Flanner swung by Little Dixie Lake Monday to share what he knew with deputies. The Millersburg resident fishes at the lake two or three times a week, and said he was there between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday.

"I saw a couple of folks fishing," he said. "I'm trying to relive that night."

One man stuck out in his memory — a man wearing dark clothing fishing on the far side of the lake from the main parking area. He stayed put for about an hour, Flanner said. Hall said Kinman may have been wearing black pants when he left the house.

Flanner said he and his daughter are both shaken.

"It's a safe, quiet place to live," he said. "My daughter's pretty spooked by the whole situation."

Flanner added that he and his dog spent several hours Sunday searching near the lake's spillover, since that seemed like a place where someone could fall. He's working on organizing a large volunteer search effort.

"I'm willing to do whatever I can do to help," he said. "I've never done this before but want to do all that I can."

Visit to join the search effort.