TUPPER LAKE — A new development in an old lead in the 2012 disappearance of Colin Gillis led State Police to a property in the town of Edwards, where they were seen digging on Tuesday.
The property, known to locals there as the “old Noble Farm,” is 50 miles away from where Gillis, then 18, was last seen on March 11, 2012, walking west on state Route 3 near the Franklin-St. Lawrence County line between Tupper Lake and Piercefield.
Edwards town Supervisor Jan Lennox said State Police used the town backhoe for digging on Tuesday. He also said State Police had been present two weeks before when machinery on the property was used to dig a 20-to-30-foot circle in the same location.
State Police declined to provide much information about the investigation as it is still “ongoing,” but they did say it had to do with their eight-and-a-half-year-long investigation into Gillis’ disappearance.
“We were following up on a lead in Edwards on the Gillis case,” State Police Public Information Officer Trooper Jennifer Fleishman wrote in an email. “No arrests have been made. We were following up on an older lead.”
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua declined to say if an arrest has been made but said if one is, law enforcement will notify the media.
EIGHT YEARS AGO
Lennox said a house on that property burned down around two years. The town has wanted the debris cleaned since then, and he said cleaning started there around a month or two ago.
Gillis’ disappearance eight years ago weighs heavily on Tupper Lake today. His missing poster is prominently displayed at the deli counter at Shaheen’s IGA and other establishments around town. Every village board meeting begins with a moment of silence “for the safe return of Colin Gillis and for his family,” and announcements about the investigation, like this one, reignite discussion over what people suspect happened.
Gillis was a freshman at SUNY Brockport when he returned home for spring break in March 2012. He attended a party on Paskungameh Road on the west side of town. There was fighting, and he left alone, after his friends, on foot. He was last seen by a motorist at 1:45 a.m. March 11.
Hundreds of Tupper Lakers came out to search the streets, the woods and the waters nearby in the following weeks. Their efforts turned up some personal items by the Setting Pole Dam area, near where he was last seen.
But otherwise, not much further official information has surfaced in the following years, despite his disappearance sparking one of the most extensive searches ever conducted around here.
Former State Police Troop B Commander Maj. John Tibbitts Jr. said in 2018 that out of his 13-year career in North Country law enforcement, Gillis’ case bothers him most. Tibbitts said he had Gillis’ picture on his desk, and he hoped one day the troop can bring closure to his family.