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February 2, 2007

Community responds to call for help in Steffey search

Wade Steffey
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Phones have been ringing almost non-stop as people call to volunteer to search on Saturday (Feb. 3) for missing Purdue freshman Wade Steffey.

"We have at least 500 people who have called in offering to help search since the center opened on Jan. 22," said Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg. "More than 20 ATV owners and a group of Hummer drivers are expected to search along with scores of volunteers on horseback and others on foot. Wade's parents, Dale Steffey and Dawn Adams, will be at the center tomorrow and are deeply touched by the outpouring of community effort."

Ind. Reps. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, and Joe Micon, D-West Lafayette, will arrive at 9:30 a.m. to offer their support and read a letter from their legislative counterparts in the Bloomington area, Reps. Peggy Welch and Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

T-shirts to benefit a reward fund also have just arrived and will be available at the volunteer center, located at the End Zone Cafe just north of Ross-Ade Stadium. Searchers are asked to check in at the center at 8 a.m. if using ATVs or horses or at 10 a.m. if searching on foot.

The front of the $12 shirts 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.

Steffey family
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Those who can do so are asked to bring their own transportation and to car pool. The Clinton Prairie School Corp. and Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department each are providing a bus to help transport searchers and provide them a place to warm up during breaks in the searching.

Many area volunteer firefighters are among the latest to join in the effort and are expected to be a significant asset.

"These individuals know their townships and areas better than almost anyone," Norberg said. "They will know where best to concentrate."

Tippecanoe County Geographical Information System provided detailed maps for plotting purposes.

Those who can't search can help by providing gasoline cards to help defray ATV expenses.

"Please take those to the volunteer center and they will be distributed to the drivers," Norberg said.

Volunteers get search instructions
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Others are supporting those who can search, she added.

The Community and Family Resource Center, 330 Fountain St., Lafayette, has volunteered to provide child-care service on Saturday (Feb. 3) for the children of those participating in the search, Norberg said. The free service will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for children ages 5 and older. Contact the center at (765) 742-5046 for additional information.

The Purdue University Residences' Dining Services operation will provide hot drinks and muffins on Saturday while Coca Cola Co. will provide beverages at the center.

"The news media continues to play an enormously important role in this search," Norberg said. "Right now, the communication they provide is helping us do all we can to find Wade."

Prayer vigil
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Police provide advice to protect searchers against the cold

Everyone is strongly encouraged to wear very warm clothing. Temperatures are expected to be in the teens, with a wind-chill factor of minus 20. Cover exposed skin with hats, gloves and a facemask. Layer your clothing with an exterior layer of waterproof clothing if possible. Disposable heat pads for shoes and gloves are recommended. Wear warm, waterproof boots or shoes appropriate for hiking in rough  areas.

Searchers will be away from bathroom facilities for up to two hours, so plan accordingly.

Everyone must sign in and out at the visitor's center. Everyone must search in groups of two or more. Cell phones may not work in some areas.

Personal discretion should be used to decide when to terminate your participation in the search, but you must let an official from the volunteer center know that you are leaving.

How to help

Volunteer to search either in small groups or join the major search on Saturday (Feb. 3). In either case, check in with the volunteer center to get maps of areas to search or to sign up for alerts concerning major searches. Contact the center at (765) 496-2289,, to provide phone, cell phone and e-mail information so you can be alerted of plans for such mass searches. Those who can search on their own or who want to organize smaller group searches also can contact the center for suggested areas.

Check your own property, especially in rural areas, or call the volunteer center and invite searchers to help.

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.

Check your personal vehicles.

Post fliers, available at the volunteer center or at Purdue's Visitor Information Center, located on the ground floor of the Northwestern Avenue parking garage.

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.

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, 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.

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The DNR also has offered its all-terrain vehicles for use in the search along the Wabash River banks. 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.

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 almost to 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 to raise funds for the reward. To purchase shirts, go to the volunteer center on Saturday (Feb. 3) or contact Wade's roommate, Ben Buckner, via e-mail to Buckner also said there are plans to sell the shirts at various campus locations.

Vigil planned

Next Saturday (Feb. 10) at 7:30 p.m. a prayer vigil will take place in Steffey's hometown of Bloomington, Ind., at the Evangelical Community Church, 503 S. High St.

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 the FBI and two former FBI agents from Team Adam, provided through The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All police agencies in Tippecanoe County and Indiana State Police are helping as needed.

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,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

 Note to Journalists: Dale Steffey and Dawn Adams, the parents of Wade Steffey, are expected to be available to talk to the media at about  2 p.m. Saturday at the volunteer center.

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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