MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 18, 2013

Four missing found overseas

Investigator says family members left purposefully

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Authorities say four Muskogee people reported missing three months ago are safe, quelling concerns they had been harmed.

CieCie Oliver, 31, and her two children, Zach, 5, and Zoe, 6, were reported missing in early January — family members said they had last been seen Dec. 28. Oliver’s mother, Gail McElmurry, 57, was reported missing about a month later. Concerns for their safety reached the point that friends started a Facebook group to keep others updated on the search.

A representative from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reached Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darrin Berry early Monday and said they had located the family “overseas.”

Berry was recently assigned the case. Berry said National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is capable of searching avenues local law enforcement might not be able to access.

Berry said early Monday that he had searched for address listings and food stamp applications, but noting on Oliver or McElmurry had shown up. Cell phone, credit card transactions and bank statements can’t be searched without a warrant, Berry said. And without a criminal charge, he couldn’t get a warrant.

About an hour later, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted Berry.

Muskogee police originally investigated the case. Investigator James Poffel said he’d received phone calls from family members who said the four people had left purposefully. Poffel said he understood that people go missing “on purpose” sometimes, but that it would be an open, active case until they were found.

“They’re safe,” Berry said. “That’s all we were worried about — we just wanted to make sure they were OK, that the kids were OK.”

When the group was reported missing, Muskogee Police Department Lt. Bobby Lee said that people who go “purposefully missing” can contact law enforcement to discreetly let authorities know they’re safe.

“Go to another police department if you have to,” Lee said. “Identify yourself, prove who you are, and have them contact us, so we know you’re alive and well.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.