By KIM SMITH DEDAM and SUZANNE MOORE, Press-Republican
---- — TUPPER LAKE — Seven months ago, a teenager walked down a rural road after a party and has not been seen since.
Despite a massive search through wilderness and waterways last spring, no sign of Colin Gillis surfaced other than his driver’s permit, found on the ground near Setting Pole Dam Road.
“There are no new clues,” Colin’s father, John Gillis, said in a recent interview.
Now, hunters and others in the woods in the towns of Piercefield and Tupper Lake are asked to turn their eyes to continued search, to look for signs of the teen.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation says hunters have been helpful when others have been lost or missing in the woods.
“Leaves are off the trees and shrubs at this time of year, hunters seek game in areas that most people do not enter, and hunters are keen observers as they hunt,” DEC spokesperson David Winchell said in a press release Wednesday.
Colin, 18, was last seen walking toward Piercefield along Route 3 about 2 a.m. March 11, having left a large party in Tupper Lake.
He was headed in a direction opposite to his family’s home. His cellphone was last used at 1:30 a.m. that day.
Hundreds of volunteers, police, State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, firefighters, family, friends and neighbors combed areas around Raquette Pond, Raquette River and the dams below.
Colin was a biology student at SUNY Brockport, having entered as a sophomore. He was home on March 11 for spring break. The teen had graduated from Tupper Lake High School in 2011.
Mr. Gillis said they have heard of nothing new in the investigation from State Police or the DEC.
“As part of the DEC limited continuous search, they are always looking,” he said of Region 5 forest rangers.
“The State Police play it really close,” he added, offering confidence that every lead or potential lead is being tracked down.
“They ride that emotional roller coaster, and we don’t have to do that. It’s a real blessing.”
The Tupper Lake community has remained close and supportive through seven months of not knowing what happened to the young man.
Fundraisers, including a Comics for Colin show in June, continue to raise awareness and financial resources for search options.
A Facebook page remains in place, allowing people to check in and post thoughts.
One concerned friend, Kim Ratelle, summed it up with a post that said: “It is a sad time in the TRI-LAKES when one of our children walks out the door ... and does not return. It is a happy time to see the people of these communities pull together and spend unselfish time to help and support the family of the lost child. Until the lost loved ones are found, we, as a community can’t stop caring and must continue to help out in any way possible!”
‘VERY ACTIVE CASE’
Mr. Gillis said their family, including his wife, Patty, and Colin’s two brothers, are keeping on.
“You come to realize there’s a lot of stuff you don’t control. I think we’re doing okay,” he told the Press-Republican.
“Community support has been unbelievable.”
“It’s a very active case,” State Police Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. John Tibbitts said in a recent interview.
There are a dearth of leads, however.
Various scenarios of when might have happened to Colin have circulated as rumor, and if stories have been put out there, he said, “we have heard them, and we’re looking into them.”
He encouraged anyone with any information at all to contact State Police.
“Even if they don’t think it’s important, it may be something we don’t know.”
In the months since Colin’s disappearance, others have gone missing for a time in the Adirondacks, with extensive searches launched for them.
Near the end of March, Angela Roberts and Carl R. Burns, both of Tupper Lake, were the subjects of an intensive hunt. They were found within two days, and police believed they had fled into the woods after taking paranoia-inducing drugs.
The search for Seth Kilburn, 35, who went missing in August, ended tragically, when his body was found in a Lake Placid backyard after a five-day effort. He had fallen from a wooded path in the dark and suffered fatal injuries.
Little Matthew Terry, 2, was the subject of a search earlier this month after he wandered away from his home in Jay. The child was discovered minus a shoe but safe more than an hour later.
Colin is never far from the thoughts of investigators, but even more so when other missing-person cases have launched other searches, Tibbetts said.
“I really want a resolution to this case,” he said.
Colin is a white male with blond hair, typically styled in a crew cut, and blue eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a white American Eagle short-sleeved T-shirt with black stripes, blue Levi boot-cut jeans and red Nike Air high-top sneakers. DEC said he might have been wearing a reversible L.L. Bean coat, either red or back, and carrying an orange-and-black day pack.
The family has offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to Colin’s location and/or safe return.
Anyone with tips about the case or further information can contact State Police in Ray Brook at 897-2000 or DEC Dispatch at 897-1300.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org