Stuttgart, AR

Police Incorrectly Report They "Saw" Missing Disabled Woman And Delay Investigation Of Her Disappearance

The Vivid Faces of the Vanished
Miranda Michelle OwensThe Charley Project

40-year-old Miranda Michelle Owens, called Michelle, often walked or rode her bike through Stuttgart, Arkansas. Michelle is a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and more. Michelle is mentally disabled and has the mental capacity of a child. She has a diminished mental capacity but Michelle is very social and verbal.

"She spoke to everybody and laughed. You know, she was a familiar face around the city of Stuttgart," neighbor Joe Alexander, Jr told THV11.

Michelle has a caring, close family that loves and supports her. On April 19, 2015, Michelle spoke with her younger sister, Katherine Johnson Walker, around 4:00 pm.

"You know, she said she was good. I said, 'Okay, I'll talk to you later.' And she said, 'Okay.' And that’s like, the last time I talked to Michelle," Katherine told THV11.

Katherine called Michelle back around 6:00 pm, but Michelle did not answer, the Stuttgart Daily Ledger reports.

Her family attempted to report Michelle missing. The family advised the police that Michelle is mentally disabled.

"Everybody’s calling Michelle's phone. Michelle’s phone’s going straight to voicemail and everything. So we all went to the police station that night and we told them, 'we can’t find Michelle, Michelle’s not answering her phone,'" Katherine told THV11.

“I do not feel like they did their job because they should have gotten on it right then and there. We knew it was just so odd for Michelle not to be answering her phone,” Katherine told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger.

"Michelle has some slight disability, you know what I'm saying? And so, we felt like they should [have] probably immediately, you know, jumped on the situation and not made the family have to wait a couple of days before they could do the official police report," Joe Alexander Jr told THV11.

The Stuttgart Police Department then incorrectly reported they saw Michelle themselves after she was reported missing. "She hadn't spoken to her family since April 19, but police saw her on April 20 and April 21," the Charley project reports. Three days afterward, a total of eight days after her family tried to file a missing report, authorities finally issued a silver alert.

“About a day and a half after her family reported her missing to the police department, it was reported that she was seen at the corner of 13th and Main Street. That does not seem to actually have been the case after following up on that lead," Eric Mahfouz, the City of Stuttgart's media representative, told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger. “I think the miscommunication at the beginning was probably a big reason for her not being placed on an active search list immediately.”

Her family feels her case was mishandled and her mental disability created an urgency in her disappearance.

“If something happened today involving a person who was mentally or physically disabled or handicapped, they would immediately be reported to the Silver Alert in Little Rock to the Arkansas State Police,” Eric Mahfouz told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger. “How Michelle’s case was handled was sadly a road map of what not to do at the beginning, so now we know better what to do going forward.”

The community acted. Several community members and residents who knew Michelle created the organization known as the Stuttgart Search and Rescue (SAR) Team. They are searching for Michelle and answers to her sudden disappearance.

“We have not been out and doing a lot of searches, but we share a lot of information amongst one another. We have a group where we still continue to talk about leads,” member Joe Alexander, Jr. told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger.

The group is offering an $8,000 reward for information.

“The community has come together because they want answers. That is how we were able to come up with the $8,000. It was because of all these donations from different fundraisers. People are trying to help us get answers,” Joe Alexander, Jr. told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger.

Her sister, Katherine, and her family will never give up hope. They want someone to come forward with information on what happened to Michelle.

“It is killing my mom inside and out, and her son is taking it hard,” Katherine told the Stuttgart Daily Ledger. “Please let us know something. It has been seven years. We do not know if she is dead or alive.”

Miranda Michelle Owens is 5'6" and weighed 120 pounds when she vanished.

If you have any information, please contact the Stuttgart Police Department at 870-673-1414.

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