A crew from the Maine Marine Patrol uses side-scan sonar on Tuesday to search the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast for signs of Joy MacDonald, a Belfast woman who is missing. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

BELFAST, Maine — Search crews from the Maine Marine Patrol and the Maine Warden Service criss-crossed the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast Tuesday, looking for a local woman who hadn’t been heard from in a month and a half.  

By early afternoon, they hadn’t found any signs of Joy MacDonald, a 40-year-old from Belfast whose family reported her missing over the weekend. Officials, who used boats and side-scan sonar to search the river, concentrated on the area between the Route 1 bridge and the Armistice Footbridge.

They began looking in the morning and planned to continue at least through the end of the day, according to Sgt. Matthew Wyman of the Maine Marine Patrol. The agencies were supporting the Belfast Police Department, which is leading the search for MacDonald.

“There’s nothing directly pointing to the water. We’re doing it as a precaution, basically,” Wyman said. “I don’t know how long this amount of effort will be maintained, but we’ll give it the day and see where we get.”

MacDonald, who has brown hair and brown eyes, is 5’5” tall and weighs about 160 pounds, according to Deputy Chief Dean Jackson of the Belfast Police Department. The last confirmed contact with her happened on Sept. 9, when police reached out to her in connection with an incident where she had wandered into somebody else’s home. 

On a Facebook post made over the weekend, her sister said she hadn’t heard from MacDonald in a month and a half, and that text messages had stopped being delivered to her phone on Saturday night.

Joy MacDonald has not been in contact with her family since September. Credit: Courtesy of Belfast Police Department via Facebook

Police found MacDonald’s white Nissan vehicle parked on Pierce Street, not far from the footbridge, where it remained on Tuesday. They did not say when it was found there or how long it’s been parked there.  

Jackson said that the Maine Warden Service has assisted his department with a ground search of the area on Monday. They had a dog with them, according to the Republican Journal. As well, the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit has helped them do some interviews outside of Belfast. As well, the Maine Marine Patrol expected to do an air search that will expand beyond Belfast Bay.

“Then we’ll search as we see the need to search, kind of take it day by day,” he said. “Anybody that has any information, we’re welcoming and following up on it. We’ll just keep working at it until we can find her.”

Some of MacDonald’s family members gathered near her vehicle Tuesday morning while the search was underway, but declined at that time to comment to the media.

A group of searchers had looked for her along the Belfast Rail Trail and elsewhere in the area on Sunday.

Some people strolling on the Armistice Footbridge on Tuesday watched as the search crews in boats went back and forth between the two bridges. Pamela Sawyer, a Brooks woman who walks her dog on the bridge almost every day, said she was surprised that there wasn’t more broad-scale awareness of the search for MacDonald. It’s a tight-knit community, she said, where people who walk every day on the Belfast Rail Trail and the Armistice Footbridge may have seen something.

“This is crazy that I have not known that anyone was missing,” she said. “That really frustrates me.”

Sawyer said that it seems when people are missing elsewhere in the country, such as Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old who was found dead in Wyoming, there can be wall-to-wall media coverage.

“But I haven’t seen a single poster [of MacDonald],” she said.

Another woman, Amy Mehuren of Searsmont, who often meets family for lunch in a parking area near the footbridge, said that ever since she learned MacDonald was missing, she has been keeping her in mind.

“We all want her to come home from wherever she is,” Mehuren said. “I’m not a real religious person, but I’m spiritual — and I’m just praying for her to come home.”

If anyone has information about or has had contact with Joy MacDonald, they are asked to call Detective Sgt. Matt Cook of the Belfast Police Department at 207-338-2040.