After five years, search for clues continues in woman’s disappearance
NEW MADRID, Mo. — It wasn’t unusual to see Barbara Stoffer driving her small green Volvo around New Madrid. But on Aug. 20, 2013, Stoffer drove through New Madrid, then headed out onto the rural roads of the county, never to be seen again.
Five years later, law enforcement officers have not given up their search for clues in the disappearance of the 83-year-old New Madrid woman.
New Madrid Police Chief Joey Higgerson and New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens said the case remains open. They still believe someone may hold the clue that will help them solve the case.
Higgerson recently re-released details of the case.
“It is our hope that some of these details may jog someone’s memory, help to identify a new witness or witnesses, or at the very least, keep Barbara Stoffer’s disappearance in the public eye. We cannot allow time to let her disappearance lose importance,” Higgerson said.
He noted Stoffer was last seen driving her green 1997 four-door Volvo 850 GLT by five witnesses. Based on their accounts, officials determined that between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Aug. 20, 2013, Stoffer traveled from Main Street in New Madrid to Highway 61 to Highway 62 to Highway 153.
The last place her vehicle was seen was on Highway D through Parma traveling west, Higgerson said. He added it is possible, but not proven, there was a passenger in the car during at least one of the sightings.
After Stoffer was reported missing on Aug. 21, 2013, the Missouri Highway Patrol, Stevens and officers from his department along with numerous volunteers joined in the search for the elderly woman.
“In this type of investigation it takes all hands on deck, you can’t have enough help,” Stevens said. “We were covering hundreds of miles, searching on ground and by air.”
They have also searched the water.
According to Higgerson, several months prior to her disappearance, Stoffer accidentally drove her vehicle off the New Madrid boat ramp onto the rocks. The car had to be pulled back onto the pavement by a tow truck.
“This obviously causes some concern and has focused some of our search efforts toward the Mississippi River,” Higgerson said.
The day after Stoffer was reported missing, a vehicle was pulled from the river just below the Missouri Conservation Department boat ramp in the belief that it could be the missing car. The vehicle turned out to be a Chevrolet Lumina that was reported stolen in 2001.
At least three other cars were pulled from the Mississippi River during the Stoffer search. None of these matched Stoffer’s vehicle.
Numerous other small-scale searches have taken place. At least one property was excavated based on an anonymous tip. None of these searches yielded anything of value to the investigation, Higgerson said.
“Five years later, we are still up against the wall. We really don’t have a concrete idea of what happened and still looking for answers,” added Stevens.
He urged anyone who might have information to come forward.
“Even if they think it is a minute piece of information — it may be that piece that puts it all together,” Stevens said. “Even if you think we may have already investigated that, or known about it — call us and we can look at it again. Sometimes when you plow ground a second time, you can come up with a different view.”
For Higgerson, the search is personal. He knew Stoffer.
“This is not a nameless, faceless case,” he said.
Although law enforcement has followed up on hundreds of leads, he said by re-releasing details of the disappearance he hopes to uncover new information.
“At this time there is no way to know if this is a criminal matter or a missing person case with no foul play involved. However, we, along with the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, have not ruled out either of these scenarios,” he said. “We want to keep this case from fading into obscurity. Keep it out there in the hope that something is going to break.”
Anyone with any information about the disappearance of Barbara Stoffer should contact the New Madrid Police Department at (573) 748-5901 or the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Department at (573) 748-2516.