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January 29, 2007

Purdue to lead missing student volunteer center, search continues

Wade Steffey
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Purdue University on Monday (Jan. 29) announced that a volunteer center will remain open to facilitate the search for missing freshman Wade Steffey, 19, Bloomington, Ind., who has been missing since Jan. 13.

IN Hope, a volunteer group of parents of missing children, had launched the center, and on Sunday (Jan. 28) announced they would close their operation. The university now will assume this responsibility, said Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg.

IN Hope understood the need to have a place for volunteers and a staff to organize searches, and the university appreciates their initiative," Norberg said. "Their weeklong efforts have been a great asset to our investigators, helping us cover most of the area in and around campus. The search, however, is far from over, and we continue to need the public's help, especially in our more rural areas."

Purdue police are asking owners of rural property to call the center if they would allow volunteers to search their property on foot, with all-terrain vehicles and/or on horseback. Contact the center at (765) 496-2289 or, beginning Tuesday (Jan. 30) via e-mail

The volunteer center will continue to operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at its present location, in the End Zone Cafe at the north end of Ross-Ade Stadium. The center will help coordinate search activities as well as provide fliers and maps of areas that need to be searched. Fliers also will be available at Purdue's Visitor Information Center, 504 Northwestern Ave., beginning later Monday (Jan. 29).

Steffey family
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Dale Steffey, the father of the missing student, said he is grateful for everyone's efforts and relieved that the center will continue to operate.

"I am concerned about our Purdue students' mental and physical health, as well as their classes," he said. "I urge all of them to maintain a balance, and for those deeply affected, I urge them to seek counseling."

Purdue provides free counseling through the Student Health Center's Counseling and Psychological Services. Contact the office at (765) 494-6995 or stop by one of two main offices ? in the Psychology Building, Room 1120, or at the Purdue Student Health Center, Room 246. Students living in Purdue residence halls also can seek help through the resident assistants on their floors.

How to help:

Check your own property, especially in rural areas. Watch for a Motorola cell phone, a wallet, items such as identification cards, a white shirt with blue stripes, shoes size 10.5 and light blue jeans size 30 by 32.

Volunteers get search instructions
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Police have requested that residents check their personal vehicles, especially if vehicles were borrowed by anyone over the time period of Jan. 12-13.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Purdue Police Department at (765) 494-8221 or the anonymous tip line at (765) 496-3784. More than 150 tips have been called in already. Police also are asking that anyone who was in the Tower Acres area of campus from around midnight to 3 a.m. on Jan. 13 contact Purdue police.

If you would like to help with a search, contact the volunteer center.

What has been done so far

Investigators have interviewed scores of people and tracked down many of the tips. Their work continues.

More than 1,000 volunteers have taken part in ongoing searches of the campus and the surrounding area.

Boats and helicopters provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police have searched the Wabash River. Sonar has been used in some, but not all of the waterways because of ice cover. More sonar testing will be done later.

Prayer vigil
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The DNR also has offered its all-terrain vehicles for use in the search once the river's banks are firmer. Other ATV owners and equestrians are searching large rural tracts at the invitation of property owners. The ATVs earlier searched an area near Purdue's tennis complex and the cross-country course, as well as along Cherry Lane.

More than a half dozen canine units have searched cars, campus, construction areas, golf courses, the tennis center, the 185-acre Celery Bog Nature Center, waterways and many buildings. Purdue staff have searched the campus, including tunnels, rooftops, utility areas and construction sites.

Video cameras were used to check drainage pipes and culverts on the university golf course, and Purdue Fire Department personnel searched drainage ditches in that area.

Police checked Steffey's ATM and credit card transactions, computer, cell phone calls and e-mail messages.

Landfill operators have marked the areas where Purdue trash was dumped for the week after Steffey's disappearance.

Area bus and train stations and local military recruiters were contacted.

Video surveillance cameras were checked.

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Purdue issued a map of the area in which Steffey's cell phone was tracked before the phone's signal was lost Jan. 17, which includes the north end of the academic campus including Ross-Ade Stadium. The area is bounded to the west by Russell Street and runs north to  almost Lindberg Road and east to Salisbury Street. The map and an image of the cell phone, as well as a flier, are available online with the news release at the Purdue home page,

Public appeals for more information on the Steffey case have been made via all state media. The story has appeared more than 10 times on national television. Students have been spreading the word via Facebook, MySpace and a variety of Internet sites and blogs.

Information is being displayed on the Mackey Arena video screens during basketball games.

Where Wade's phone was tracled
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A reward is being offered for information concerning Steffey's whereabouts. The reward was established by family and friends and is being administered by Fifth Third Bank in Central Indiana. Donors should make their checks out to The Wade Steffey Reward Fund in Central Indiana, and donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch. For information, call Fifth Third Bank in Lafayette at (765) 423-5557.

Students are selling T-shirts for $12, with $7 from each shirt going to the reward fund. The front of the bright green shirt has a photo of Steffey and the words "Have you seen Wade?" The back of the shirt has the words "Help find Wade Steffey," along with the phone number for the Purdue Police Department. Shirts are available in sizes small through XXL. To purchase a shirt, contact Wade's roommate, Ben Buckner, via e-mail to  Buckner also said there are plans to sell the shirts at various campus locations.

Information about Wade Steffey

Steffey, a 19-year-old freshman, is a National Merit Scholar majoring in aviation technology. He was last seen early Jan. 13 and was reported missing Jan. 16 when his roommate returned to campus after the Martin Luther King holiday break.

Steffey attended a party at Phi Kappa Theta fraternity on Jan. 12 and was believed to have been last seen around 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 13 outside the doors of Owen Hall, where he had left his coat with a friend. At about the same time, he placed two cell phone calls to friends in Owen Hall, a short walk away from his room in Cary Quadrangle.

Steffey was last seen wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with light blue stripes and light-colored jeans. He is white with short brown hair and brown eyes, is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds.

The investigators

The 39 officers in the Purdue University Police Department are being assisted by all police agencies in Tippecanoe County and Indiana State Police, as well as the FBI. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sent two former FBI agents from Team Adam, a group of retired criminal investigators.

Steffey's information also has been added to the database for the National Center for Missing Adults as well as that for missing children.

Sources: Jeanne Norberg, (765) 491-1460,

Volunteer Center, (765) 496-2289; e-mail beginning Jan. 30,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Pictured is a Motorola E815 V CAST phone from Verizon like the one being carried by Wade Steffey when he was last seen.

Purdue Police Chief Gary K. Evans instructs the more than 300 volunteers who answered a call for assistance on Thursday (Jan. 18) to help find missing student Wade S. Steffey. Volunteers searched several areas in and around the campus. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at

Purdue police Capt. Tim Potts, at left, gives search instructions to those attending a Saturday (Jan. 20) prayer vigil for missing student Wade Steffey. Following the vigil, which was led by Purdue students Sarah Kelzer and Brooke Anderson (at far right), police led volunteers in a search for Steffey's cell phone. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at

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