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Police, Public Continue Search for Missing Man

  • Austin Colson



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sharon — The father of a missing Royalton man on Thursday said state police and volunteers have made progress in gathering the pieces to the puzzle that may lead loved ones to his son, who went missing four months ago.

Dana Colson said he couldn’t go into details about what people have found in relation to Austin Colson’s disappearance because disclosing that information could impact the ongoing investigation. But he said he has more hope today than he had months ago that his son will one day come home.

“The public involvement is helping — it is helping us piece things together,” Colson said.

More than a half dozen Vermont State Police troopers on Thursday focused their search near a farmhouse off Beaver Meadow Road in Norwich.

The unmarked cars filled the driveway, and at least one K-9 officer was on scene to assist with the search.

Vermont State Police Lt. John-Paul Schmidt, who is leading the investigation into the missing man, was among the troopers at the farmhouse, where authorities have been before as part of the investigation.

With the snow gone and the ground thawed, troopers have zeroed in on the case and their “searches are picking up,” Schmidt said in a telephone interview. He said he could provide only limited information while the case was open.

“We want to find Austin and we want to bring him home to his family,” Schmidt said. “This is a nightmare scenario for them.”

Austin Colson, whose 20th birthday was in February, went missing on Jan. 11, the day he was expected to collect scrap metal in the Royalton area with Richard P. Whitcomb Jr., a White River Junction resident who has been named in federal court papers as a suspect in Colson’s disappearance. Whitcomb currently is facing federal firearms charges, and prosecutors asserted he used a .32-caliber handgun as collateral in a cocaine deal with Colson.

Dana Colson said Whitcomb once worked on the land off Beaver Meadow Road where state police searched on Thursday.

Dana Colson urged anyone who goes out looking for his son to canvas the land for shell casings, specifically .32s, as well as any items Colson was last seen in, which included Chippewa boots, a hooded camouflage jacket and a white baseball-style hat with the words “A and C Painting” on it.

Police and volunteers have searched several areas in the Upper Valley, including White River Junction, Norwich and Royalton, but Dana Colson said many have focused their efforts on Strafford and Sharon. The trailer Colson and Whitcomb were slated to use on Jan. 11 was found abandoned on Downer Road in Sharon, about 8 miles north of the farmhouse, not long after he went missing.

Many people set out in those Upper Valley communities on Green Up Day on May 5 to search for Austin Colson and hand out fliers informing people about what they should look for, Dana Colson said.

Scores of people have completed searches thus far and continue to do so daily. Dana Colson goes out as often as he can.

“Some of the areas we have searched, we want to stretch into neighboring areas. There is a lot of acreage to cover, but now that the snow is gone, it reveals things we couldn’t see before,” he said.

Finding hope these days is hard, the father said.

He ultimately hopes his son comes home alive.

“But we don’t think that is likely,” he said.

Austin Colson’s mother, DeAunna Claflin McKinney, said on Thursday she is having a hard time coping with the thought that the search is most likely for a body, and not the son she remembers.

She thanks those who have taken time out of their day to search, including people who have come from other states.

“I really do appreciate everyone who has tried to search for Austin,” she said.

Anyone with information about Austin Colson’s whereabouts is urged to call Vermont State Police at 802 234-9933.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.