Family, law enforcement continue search for Ralph Brown
Detectives, family and friends are still seeking information regarding the disappearance of Cornelius resident Ralph Brown.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office held a press conference Thursday, June 3, again asking for the community's help in locating the former school administrator, school board member and Cornelius mayor, who left his house the evening of May 16 and hasn't been seen since.
Brown, 76, suffers from dementia and has memory problems. He reportedly left his home in his navy blue 2014 Nissan Sentra, Oregon license plate 319 KQV, at roughly 6:30 p.m. on May 16, and told his wife he was "going home."
At roughly 9 p.m. that evening, his daughter Laurie Saunders contacted him by phone, at which time Brown said he was "in the bushes." Saunders then told her father to stay put and that his son Daryle would be calling him shortly.
Brown hasn't been heard from since.
WCSO spokesperson Sgt. Danny DiPietro confirmed Brown's last known location to be in the Newberg area, which detectives deduced from a series of cellphone "pings" used to try to triangulate the missing person's location.
DiPietro also said that Brown's phone was shut off shortly after the cellphone activity, limiting detectives' tracking ability. However, as a result of the activity, law enforcement was able to search the area by foot, vehicle, boat, aerial drones — which in some cases used infrared imaging — and even civilian aircraft.
As part of the search effort, law enforcement has also checked airports, hospitals and places Brown is known to frequent.
There's also an active search ongoing at Hess Creek in Newberg, which is located at the north end of a search rectangle law enforcement agencies have constructed based on Brown's cellphone activity.
DiPietro said the search is based only on that location information, not on any active leads.
"We have no other indication that is leading us to that search," he clarified.
DiPietro added that while there have been reported sightings of Brown in Newberg, the Salem area and Molalla, none have been substantiated.
"We want to make it very clear," DiPietro said, "there have been no confirmed sightings of Mr. Brown."
Saunders, family friend Sue Fleskes and Brown's granddaughter Meghan Closson also spoke at Thursday's press conference. All said it's crucial not to delay in reporting any evidence or sighting of Brown.
"If you see something or someone that might fit his description, or an older gentleman acting weird or not walking right, please call and don't wait to post to Facebook," Closson said. "The time it took you to post on Facebook, we could've sent someone out to find him."
Fleskes has been heading up the volunteer effort to search for Brown, gathering more than 200 to help out. They have been handing out flyers, following prospective leads, and helping search the immediate area and throughout the state.
"People have been wonderful," Fleskes said. "I just hope that Ralph can feel the love communities have come forward with to bring him home."
Brown is about 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, with gray hair and blue eyes, and was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, dark shorts, white socks and sandals. He is missing the tip of the index finger on his right hand and has a distinctive gait, shuffling his feet as he walks.
If you have any information regarding Brown's whereabouts, contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office at 503-629-0111.
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