Family, friends of missing 18-year-old Florence girl hold out hope for her return at vigil
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2011, 9:45 AM Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2011, 9:55 AM
BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP — Friends of 18-year-old Sarah Townsend mobilized via Facebook and other social media Wednesday to organize a public foot search and candlelight vigils for the missing Florence teen.
“Obviously, everybody’s becoming more concerned the longer we haven’t heard from her,” township Police Director Walter Corter said.
Townsend, an Allentown High School student, had left home for her morning classes 7 a.m. Monday. Her boyfriend Matt Welsh found her car near a pond half a mile from the township’s municipal complex and called police at 10:02 a.m.
Welsh apparently told police the car was running when he arrived at Sherman’s Pond. The vehicle was off by the time officers arrived, Corter said.
Police said that Welsh was not a suspect in her disappearance.
Almost immediately after Townsend was reported missing, police combed through their logs of calls for aid in the time prior to and after her disappearance to see if there were any unusual calls that could be connected with the case. They found nothing, Corter said.
The worry of Townsend’s friends and family continues to grow with the length of her absence.
Townsend's father Roy says his family is offering $10,000 for his daughter’s safe return. The money has been cobbled together among himself, family members, and friends.
“We’re not rich at all, we don't have that kind of money,” he said.
Townsend, whose job is maintaining the building and grounds of Allentown High, had nothing but praise for the law enforcement officers who have been searching for his daughter over the last three days.
“They're doing a hell of a job,” he said. He also thanked the volunteers who have mounted their own search in the area.
Roy Townsend's sister-in-law Colleen Makovicz said the missing teen comes from a loving family and has never left them unexpectedly before.
“That’s what has us baffled,” she said. “Sarah has no history of running away or doing anything abnormal, she’s just a nice kid.”
Makovicz's 19-year-old daughter Monica has taken to cyberspace and the towns of Florence and Burlington to find her cousin. Last night, Monica’s Facebook page “Find Sarah Townsend” had over 7,000 followers.
(View the Facebook group here, you must be signed in to Facebook) The page has become an unofficial tool to organize searches and share information.
Monica Makovicz spent Wednesday evening hanging up fliers, then went on a cable news show to talk about the case. Volunteers did their walk-throughs of the Green Acres park in Burlington after being briefed by police on the dangers of the area, including tick infestation, marshes, and tidal waterways.
Debbie Partyka, owner of a Florence ice cream shop where Townsend worked two summers ago, said the outpouring of support showed the love for Townsend in the community.
“It’s amazing how many people know her,” Partyka said. “So she’s very well liked. I just can’t understand where she is.”
Dozens of law enforcement officers, ten dogs, and state police aviation units did a full search of the Green Acres area near Sherman’s Pond Monday and Tuesday to no avail, Corter said.
“We went over each grid approximately four times and each time we did, it was with a different search team,” he said last night.
Townsend's case continues to be treated as a missing persons investigation, but police would not say whether they had found any signs of foul play near her abandoned car.
“We’ll continue to work until we safely find her,” Corter said.
Anyone with information in the case is urged to call police at (609) 386-2019 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (609) 386-2019 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, or the Tip Line at (609) 239-5896 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (609) 239-5896