JASPER — Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said Wednesday he had a difficult decision to make, one that he will not make on his own.
That is whether or not to continue searching for a woman reported missing last month.
Pamela Samuels-Lourno, 57, was last seen in Garland County on June 3, and had made reference to the Mt. Judea area to family.
Her pickup truck was located Sunday morning, June 9, near the Sam's Throne Campground off Highway 123 south of Mount Judea. Receipts in the truck indicated she had been in Western Grove on June 4.
Since then, about 120 people have worked an unknown number of hours searching an area having a 5.2-mile radius. Helicopters, drones, bloodhounds and other K-9 units, along with ground searchers, searchers on mules, ATVs and UTVs and high-angle personnel as well as infrared detection and GPS devices have been employed to search the area. A large variety of clues were uncovered and some evidence indicates she was mobile and travelled both along the bluff line as well as the base line. Some blood was found on some rocks, so she may have been injured.
Manpower and resources from Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma participated in intensive searches conducted Saturday and Sunday, June 29 and 30 without result. Nine teams works Saturday and 12 teams worked Sunday searching in overlapping coordinated areas. A map on the sheriff's desktop computer screen showed those areas and notes where evidence of the woman's presence was found.
The scent tracking dogs were able to find places where the woman had been. She apparently broke into a house about a half-mile from her vehicle. A pillow from the residence was later found along with some items that had been purchased from the Dollar General store at Western Grove.
On Wednesday morning Wheeler said he planned to contact the woman's family to help make the decision whether or not to halt the search. "It's hard to live without an answer," he said, but at this point the sheriff didn't know what more he can do.
There is evidence in the way of her personal writings along with some biblical texts and maps found with them that suggests Samuels-Lourno came to the area on purpose in the belief she would encounter her demons. Wheeler said these could be indicators of mental illness and she could be suicidal. That is why the search has been so intensive.
Wheeler further suggested the woman may have come here intending not to be found, and because evidence shows she moved quickly over such a large area, she may have been trying to avoid the searchers.
For that reason the search was suspended briefly to see if the woman would reveal herself. That was when the woman's dog, an older, small, white Chihuahua-terrier mix, with which she was supposed to be traveling was found walking along Highway 123 near the entrance to Sam’s Throne Campground.
Samuels-Lourno is described as 5-foot-5, 172 pounds with hazel eyes and grey hair cut very short. No sightings were reported, however.
The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic. It looked to have lost some weight, but was in otherwise good shape for a dog its age, the sheriff said. The dog was turned over to the woman's relatives.