“Thank you for coming to help find my baby girl. It means the world to me that the community is here for us,” Kristine Wiley, the missing teen’s mother, told searchers during a brief, emotion-filled appearance Sunday morning at the Glenburn Fire Station.
“Our goal is to bring her home safe and I want to thank you for being here,” Wiley said as she stood flanked by family before a small sea of volunteers, the vast majority of them wearing orange vests and sturdy boots.
Besides more than a dozen law enforcement officials, Sunday’s massive search effort drew an estimated 100 trained volunteers from 17 search and rescue teams from throughout Maine.
It also involved more than 400 people from Glenburn and surrounding communities who merely wanted to help bring the Glenburn teenager home.
“It’s probably the most volunteers, civilian volunteers, we’ve had on a search in six or seven years, that I can remember,” Dave Martin, president of Orono-based Dirigo Search and Rescue, said. “I knew we were going to get a lot. I didn’t think we’d get this many. But it’s gotten a lot of publicity. You know, it’s a kid.”
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into Cable’s disappearance began last Monday morning, when Cable’s parents, Jason and Kristine Wiley of Glenburn, reported her missing.
On their Facebook page, Bring Nichole Cable Home, the girl’s parents said they last saw Cable on Sunday night and that they believe their daughter was last known to be with a man using a fictitious name on a Facebook account.
Since then, fliers have been posted and shared over the Internet by family and friends throughout Penobscot County and well beyond and information about the case has spread around the world over the Internet.
While most of the searchers worked the roadsides, woods and boggy areas on foot, some looked for signs of the teenager on horseback or aboard off-road vehicles. Their area of focus was the land along Route 221, also known as Hudson Road, and Route 43 in Glenburn, Hudson and west Old Town.
To make sure every volunteer was accounted for by the end of the day, volunteers had to sign in and sign out.
Before sending them off to their designated search areas, Warden Rick LaFlamme outlined what was expected of the volunteers as he counted them off in groups of 10, each of which was assigned a team leader.
“No one goes rogue on him,” the warden said. “If you go run rogue and someone gets hurt and someone doesn’t know you’re gone, we’re gonna be searching for you tonight and one search is enough for this town, I think.
“We’re not looking for cigarette butts, we’re not looking for soda cans or water bottles at all. We’re looking for possibly a belt and possibly some jewelry or a cellphone. That’s it.”
While Sunday’s search was underway, the Maine State Police Major Crime Unit was at a residence on Maplewood Avenue in Orono with an evidence response team. It was not clear if that investigation was connected to Cable’s disappearance.
Penobscot County Chief Deputy Troy Morton could not be reached for comment late Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t have any information on that,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Sunday evening.
Besides the county sheriff’s office and warden service, the search effort through Sunday has involved personnel and expertise from the Maine State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Center for Missing Children, Bangor Police Department and others.
Among the community members who turned up for Sunday’s search were Matt and Lynn McDonald and their three daughters, Kelsea, 14, Megan, 12, and Riliee, 9. Matt McDonald said the girls used to go to school with Cable in Alton before she moved to Glenburn.
“We’ve seen it on Facebook and stuff, they used to go to school with her and they’ve seen everything that’s going on, so we wanted to come out. We figured we could do our best to help out however they want to use us.”
“She was in our elementary school,” Kelsea McDonald said. “She was friends with everybody. She liked to, you know, talk and stuff. She was pretty normal, I guess.”
Matt McDonald said he hoped Cable would be found soon.
“It’s kind of scary, having three girls,” he said.
“It’s hitting close to home,” said Lynn McDonald, adding that Cable’s disappearance was a wake-up call for parents.
“Not knowing, just not knowing anything, so many questions,” Matt McDonald said.
The McDonalds said that only their oldest daughter currently is allowed to have a Facebook account.
“We get to check it at all times. Nothing gets deleted. Anything suspicious, we take care of it,” Lynn McDonald said.
“I think we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” her husband said. “I hope some parents, they pick the pace up. I think it’s been too relaxed. We’ve always been really strict.”
On the eve of Sunday’s search, members of the community prayed for Cable’s safe return. Though it was too windy for the planned candlelight vigil, Glenburn Covenant Church Pastor Jack Dowling and his wife, Becca, led about a dozen people in a nearly hourlong outdoor prayer session.
The pastor said Saturday that he and his wife spent time with Cable’s family earlier that day and pulled the prayer vigil together in a matter of three hours because the community wanted one “and because of an acknowledgement that prayer works and we’re a praying church.”
“The family wanted the people in attendance here tonight to know that they appreciated the prayers, they appreciate their support and that they as a family are convinced that Nichole is going to come home safe and sound,” Jack Dowling said.
“Nichole’s friends have been with them all day,” added Becca Dowling. “It’s good to know that her friends are around her family.”
“There’s a number of people supporting her family,” the pastor said.
“It’s really sad. I have a 15-year-old granddaughter, so I can’t even imagine. It would be horrifying,” church member Sharon Brigalli said. “But it’s just nice to see how the community has come together. Not just Glenburn, but all the local towns. Old Town, Hermon, they’re all doing what they can. The kids are out there doing what they can.
“It’s just great to see that people can come together in a crisis situation like this, and knowing as we watched the helicopters all day long flying all around and all the police and everything … that everybody’s out there doing what they can,” she said.
“I just care for the whole town and I feel for her,” added Larry Gallant, who helped build the Glenburn church in the 1940s.
In an update issued via email early Sunday evening, Morton thanked the public for its support of the search on behalf of Cable’s family and the many other agencies involved in the effort to find her.
“The search for Nichole Cable continues,” he said. “Today, the Maine Warden Service asked for the public’s help conducting ground searches in the Glenburn, Hudson and west Old Town area. The public responded when more than 350 family, friends and total strangers arrived at the Glenburn Fire Station at 9:30 a.m. for an instructional briefing.
“Several items were located and investigators will be reviewing these items along with the tips that continue to come in,” he said. “Up to this point the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office has received more than 200 tips and leads. Ground and air searches will continue tomorrow but at this time no volunteers are needed.”