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February 3, 2007

Community responds to call for help in Steffey search

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Wade Steffey
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Searchers on horses and all-terrain vehicles, as well as on foot, answered a call for volunteers that took part in a massive search on Saturday (Feb. 3) for missing Purdue freshman Wade Steffey.

 "At least 500 people have called in offering to help search since the center opened on Jan. 22," said Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg. "ATV owners and a group of Hummer drivers took part in the search along with riders on horses and people on foot."

Ind. Reps. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, and Joe Micon, D-West Lafayette, were at the Wade Steffey Volunteer Center 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 arrived and were available at the volunteer center, located at the End Zone Cafe just north of Ross-Ade Stadium. 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.

Volunteers review a map
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The Clinton Prairie School Corp. and Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department each provided a bus on Saturday (Feb. 3) to help transport searchers and provide them a place to warm up during breaks. Many area volunteer firefighters also joined in the effort, and Tippecanoe County Geographical Information System provided detailed maps for plotting purposes.

Others are supporting those who can search, she added.

The Community and Family Resource Center, 330 Fountain St., Lafayette, provided child-care service for the children of those participating in the search, Norberg said. Purdue University Residences' Dining Services operation provided hot drinks and muffins for searchers while Coca Cola Co. provided 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."

Team of horseback riders search
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How to help

Volunteer to search either in small groups or join major search efforts as they are organized. 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, volunteer@purdue.edu, 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.

Steffey family
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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.

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

A team of 31 investigators from several area law enforcement agencies on Friday (Feb. 2) night canvassed West Lafayette rental properties that are within the area in which Wade Steffey's cell phone was last known to have been operating. Officers interviewed residents and requested they check their homes and the surrounding areas for any items that could be connected to Steffey's disappearance.

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.

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.

Prayer vigil
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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.


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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, http://www.purdue.edu.

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 tracked
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Reward

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 WadeShirt@purdue.edu. Buckner also said there are plans to sell the shirts at various campus locations.

Vigil planned

A prayer vigil will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 10) 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, jnorberg@purdue.edu

Volunteer Center, (765) 496-2289, volunteer@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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