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Search for missing teen continues

Two of Gillis’ personal items found near Setting Pole Dam Road

March 13, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

PIERCEFIELD - For the second day in a row, more than 200 people volunteered today to search for missing Tupper Lake teenager Colin Gillis.

His father said that was a testament to what a good kid he is.

"I mean, look at the people," John Gillis said. "What kind of a kid do you think he is?"

Article Photos

State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger David Russell, left, gives a search assignment to a group of volunteers Monday afternoon in Piercefield.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)

Volunteers swarmed the Piercefield Town Hall waiting for search assignments throughout much of Monday as other large groups combed the woods and roadside. Almost all of the streets of the tiny hamlet of Piercefield were completely lined with cars.

John Gillis said he and other family members are trying to stay positive by thinking about all the support they've been getting from the community.

"It's amazing, the support," John Gillis said. "They're calling for more (state Department of Environmental Conservation) officers just because we have so many volunteers."

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Colin Gillis is described as a white male, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighing about 170 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. State police said he was last seen wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call state police's Ray Brook dispatch at 518-897-2000.

He also had kind words for the search effort DEC organized throughout the day Monday.

"The professionalism of the DEC is exceptional," John Gillis said. "They're doing a great job, you know? It's a tough job."

Starting at 8 a.m. and continuing through much of the day, DEC officers sent crews of volunteers out on grid searches of the forest about a mile around state Route 3, where Colin Gillis was last seen.

The 18-year-old was at a party on Paskumgameh Road Saturday night when he wandered away. He was last seen right around the Daylight Savings Time change from 2 to 3 a.m. Sunday, walking westward on state Route 3 near the line between Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, where Tupper Lake and Piercefield meet.

Searchers found two items within a mile of that area that police would not characterize but that they said positively identified Colin Gillis, state police Lt. Patrick Ryan and DEC Capt. John Streiff announced at a press conference Monday afternoon. The items were found near Setting Pole Dam Road, which is between Paskumgameh Road and Piercefield.

Colin just came home on spring break from the pre-medical program at SUNY Brockport. He's the middle of three brothers.

Lyndon, Colin's older brother, is taking time off from college and living in the Utica area, and he came up to help out Sunday. Colin's younger brother, Ian, is still in high school in Tupper Lake.

Other family members also traveled to Tupper Lake and Piercefield to help out with the search effort.

The family spent a lot of time looking for Colin Sunday, and when they weren't able to find him, they reported him missing to DEC Sunday evening.

The call went out for volunteers to help with the search, and they showed up in droves Monday morning. More flowed in throughout the day.

An airboat searched the Raquette River Flow to see if there were any holes in the ice where someone might have gone through. They didn't find anything yet to indicate that, though, Ryan said.

A helicopter also scanned the entire area from the sky.

In addition to that, about 200 volunteers, mostly local people and friends of the Gillis family, were being split up into groups of around 10 people, with each group sent out with a forest ranger or other person trusted to be a crew boss, said DEC Forest Ranger Lt. Gary Friedrich. They are searching along the roads and the woods around state Route 3.

"We'll try to cover all the ground from Piercefield to Tupper Lake if we have to," Friedrich said earlier Monday.

While the search was going on, state police were also conducting an investigation, talking to all the people who were at the party Gillis was at, as well as family members and other interested parties.

Throughout the day Monday, a mountain of food was always present in the sign-in room at the town hall as many local businesses donated food and drinks for the search volunteers.

As they sent some searchers home to rest later Monday, Streiff said they were worried about what they call "freelancers," people who go out to search on their own. They can either be unproductive or lead to problems like footprints that could be misconstrued as evidence.

The immediate search area Monday was about a mile around both sides of state Route 3, but Streiff said DEC will continue to expand the search area. They planned to work until the sun went down Monday and start again as soon as there was enough light this morning.

Ryan and Streiff said they're looking at every possibility, but so far there are no signs that Gillis went through the ice, was struck by a car or any of the other theories flying around.

"It's a true mystery, puzzle solving for us aside, what's in someone's mind at 2 o'clock in the morning, where they're going and what they're up to," Streiff said.

As Tupper Lakers settled in for the evening Monday night, many kept Gillis in their thoughts as they lit candles and left on their porch lights, as the Tupper Lake Moose Lodge requested in a Facebook event. More than 1,000 people accepted the invitation by 10 p.m., and prayers were coming in from all over the country. Many changed their Facebook profile picture to a photo of a candle with a wish for Gillis to return home safely.

Gillis' predicament was mentioned at both the Tupper Lake town board meeting and the school board meeting held Monday evening.

School board President Michael Dechene started out his board's meeting with a moment of silence for the Gillis family.

Town Supervisor Roger Amell also mentioned it when beginning the town board meeting. Several town employees spent much of the day helping with the search.

"Our prayers go out to the Gillis family for their son right now," Amell said. "Hopefully everything turns out good."

Gillis is a white male, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighing about 170 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. State police said he was last seen wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers.

The Enterprise will provide more updates as the day progresses. Anyone with information is urged to contact state police in Ray Brook at 518-897-2000.

Streiff asked that any volunteers who show up today to come with proper footwear to walk through snow, mud and ice.



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