Ground search for Gretchen Fleming takes place at Mountwood Park

WTAP News @ Noon
Published: Feb. 4, 2023 at 10:17 PM EST
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WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. (WTAP) - “We initially called for three hundred. Just for concerns of the safety of the searchers,” says Parkersburg Police chief, Matt Board. “But we were able to facilitate enough group leaders through the help of the community with that as well and covering a few areas as well. So, it was tremendous.”

The Parkersburg Police Department and Mountaineer Area Rescue Group setup a volunteer search in Mountwood Park.

Something that the Parkersburg community has asked for since Gretchen Fleming’s missing person report started two months ago.

“You know, this might be our first point,” says Gretchen’s father, David Fleming. “But, this is probably the first of many searches that we’re going to do. And we’re going to find her.”

Chief Board says that the department asked for a maximum of three hundred volunteers in the community to help. Instead, that number had to increase as hundreds of people continued to flood to sign-in and help with this ground search.

“Well, this just kind of goes in-line with what the detective bureau and the police department have done up to this point,” says Board. “Many searches have been conducted through the police department. But, our current location here at Mountwood was such a vast landscape. Approximately 25 acres. We called on the community to help and they really answered that call.”

And it wasn’t just from the Parkersburg community either.

As some of these volunteers came in from out of state.

David says, “I know my cousin flew in from Georgia to come and be with this. I’ve had coworkers from Huntington to be here. I know people from Ohio that have drove. And the messages that I’ve gotten, it’s – like I said – overwhelming the amount of help that everyone wants to be involved in trying to find some closure to this.”

The search is something that was always a topic in the community for people invested in Gretchen going missing.

However, Gretchen’s grandmother, Louise says that she is trusting in the way the Parkersburg police has gone about this case and putting this search together.

“I just think it shows how good they really are. People’s quick in this day and age to criticize but there’s no reason to criticize anyone in this town. They’re doing the best they can with what we’ve got and, you know, I wouldn’t want anyone else. They know what they’re doing, and I believe they’ll find her,” says Louise Fleming.

And the continued support from the community is something that Gretchen’s family says is always overwhelming. Especially with this search.

Gretchen’s stepmother, Jennifer says, “Yeah, it’s unbelievable. We knew that there would be a lot of people wanting to help from everything we’ve seen on social media and family and friends. And it’s so much more than what we ever expected. It is just absolutely unbelievable how much people want to help.”