TUPPER LAKE - Colin Gillis disappeared after leaving a party in the early morning hours of March 11.
The 18-year-old Tupper Laker left after he was in a fight with other people at the party on Paskungameh Road. He was last seen by several motorists as he was walking toward Piercefield on state Route 3, near the line between Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.
In the days following his disappearance, hundreds of volunteers showed up to the Piercefield fire station to help search the area for any trace of the pre-med student who had just returned on spring break from SUNY Brockport. Agencies involved in the search included state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, state police, Tupper Lake village police, the Piercefield Volunteer Fire Department, members of the Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks and other emergency and search-and-rescue personnel.
Tupper Lakers pack St. Alphonsus Church in a vigil for missing Tupper Lake teenager Colin Gillis a few days after he disappeared.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Police conducted an investigation, interviewing people who knew Gillis and who had been at the party.
In the hours and days after Gills went missing, Tupper Lakers held vigils and fundraisers, and they left their porch lights on to guide Gillis home. Missing person signs were posted near and far.
The day after his disappearance, two items belonging to him were found by members of the search crew, but police would never say what exactly those items were.
That was the last trace of Gillis found in the woods and waters around state Route 3.
After the first few days, DEC stopped the call for volunteers to come out, asking only people very comfortable with covering rough terrain - and mainly family and close friends - to help. DEC officials appreciated so many people interested in helping, but they had a hard time putting everyone to work, and the easy ground had been covered many times over.
After four days of searching, Gillis' parents and brother tried to reach out to him through the media, asking him to come home and telling him he wouldn't be in trouble.
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 March 10 on state Route 3 between Tupper Lake and Piercefield, wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers. Anyone with information is asked to call state police's Ray Brook headquarters at 518-897-2000.
On March 19, nine days after he had gone missing, the DEC downgraded the search to "limited continuous" status, which means DEC forest rangers, search-and-rescue teams and others conduct spot searches and training exercises in the area, and helicopters do periodic flyovers of the land and waters in the area.
Family members continued for some time to organize smaller search efforts on their own.
In April, Gillis' family members announced a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to him being found.
When hunting season began, DEC put out a call to hunters to keep their eyes pealed for any sign of Gillis in the woods, since they often traverse terrain that doesn't see use the rest of the year.
So far, none of these efforts have brought answers to his family.
His parents and brothers still maintain a Facebook page dedicated to bringing him home, and they fight to keep everything posted on it positive.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.