Police and family turn to Internet in search of missing De Soto woman

Monday, April 9, 2007
Amanda Jones (Marysue Arft via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

DE SOTO, Mo. -- Life hasn't been the same for Hubert and Bertha Propst since their daughter, Amanda Jones, vanished nearly two years ago.

"It's kind of like a plague has come over us," Hubert Propst, 60, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It has affected their health and faith in others, and eroded family relationships.

But the Propsts aren't without hope.

The couple, along with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, have created a page -- "Finding Amanda Jones" -- on the popular Web site www.myspace.com in hopes someone will post the clues police need to bring Jones home.

On Aug. 14, 2005, Jones, who was 26 and nine months pregnant, told her mother she was going to the Hillsboro Civic Center to meet Bryan Lee Westfall, the man she believed was the father of her unborn son. Westfall, a former college instructor, has denied being the father and told police he had left Jones where the two met, at the horse show grounds of the civic center.

Police found Jones' unlocked car, with her purse inside, at the civic center. No one has reported seeing Jones since, and no one has been charged in her disappearance.

"We've tried everything conventional," Lt. Tommy Wright said. "And now we're trying something unconventional. We're so close, but we lack certain pieces of the puzzle. Is this the panacea to find those missing links? I don't know. Only time will tell."

The site provides a place to post clues and serves as a tribute to the divorced mother of a 4-year-old daughter.

The Propsts had to sell the mobile home in Pevely that Jones shared with her daughter and sold their own home in Festus, and moved to a smaller home in De Soto.

"Every time we went there [Jones['] home], I could barely walk through the door," said Bertha Propst, 51.

The stress has taken a physical toll on the couple. Hubert Propst, once an avid runner, has gained weight and is having problems with his short-term memory.

He said he sometimes comes home to find his wife sitting alone in the dark, "like she's in a trance."

"It isn't like a death, because you don't know where she's at or what happened to her," Bertha Propst said.

"And you don't want to think of her as dead," Hubert Propst added. "Just gone."

They have set up a room for their now 6-year-old granddaughter with a picture of her mother on the nightstand. They rarely see the girl now that she is in her father's custody in St. Louis.

Each time she does come for a visit, she goes to the picture of her mother, kisses it and says, "I love you, Mommy." She named a stuffed bear "Hayden" -- the name of the little brother she never met.

The Propsts don't get together with relatives like they used to, and are more wary of strangers.

"We've become very bitter, and we don't trust anyone," Bertha Propst said.

People have called to offer tips that have led nowhere. A prisoner in Jennings claimed to know where Jones was buried.

Hubert Propst went to the jail to meet him and still wonders if there was any truth to the man's claims. And just last week, the couple met with another man who said he had pictures of Jones in a park. The images turned out not to be of her.

"When it's your daughter, you'll do anything, go anywhere to try and find her," Hubert Propst said.

Now, they hope the Internet will produce some clues.

"I hope and pray that the person who has the information will find it in their heart to bring it forward," Bertha Propst said. "To help us get closure and peace back into our lives."

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