Everyone mystified by disappearance
At press time Thursday afternoon, the mystery of Jennifer Huston’s disappearance was showing signs that it might have been a voluntary departure from Yamhill County by the Dundee stay-at-home mother. Beginning last Friday, the story mystified family, friends and the community, extending to more than 40,000 people who connected to the “Find Jennifer Huston” Facebook page.
It took much of that week for law enforcement authorities to conduct the basic investigative work required in such unusual cases — video and witness sightings, cell phone and bank records, documented purchases and, of course, careful scrutiny of family relationships. At midweek, area police and sheriff’s office staff were engaged in an expanding search of areas that could produce evidence or clues to what may have happened.
Meanwhile, the social media effort started July 25 by the Huston family generated an outpouring of news coverage, shared concerns and prayers. And as with any such mystery, initial public speculation ran the gamut from suspicion to dread.
After the 38-year-old wife and mother of two small children failed to return home from early-evening errands, it seemed strange that authorities were not contacted until the following morning. However, Jennifer’s husband passed a polygraph test that no doubt covered that and many other areas of inquiry. Thursday afternoon reports suggested possibilities that she may have needed time away to clear her head, and may have headed north toward the San Juan Islands.
All week, for some, there was anxiety bordering on horror with speculation that the case could involve a rare but conceivable stranger abduction. People remember the high-profile Corvallis case of 19-year-old Brooke Wilberger, missing for five years before a serial killer in 2009 admitted she was one of his victims. More recent cases, including the murder of Lafayette teenager Cody Myers by white supremacists David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby, remind us that dangerous crazies still lurk in our society.
More people, however, maintained hope that some kind of personal affliction or condition, known or unknown to others, caused Jennifer Huston to bolt from her current life. Thursday quotes attributed to official sources gave some credence to that kind of speculation, and voluntary disappearance remained the most hoped-for circumstance among various alternatives.
At press time, the mystery remains. We can only try to empathize with family and friends, support the continuing search and hope that the story has had a positive ending by the time you read this column.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.