Still no sign of Jacque Waller a month after disappearance

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Even after moving out of her parents' home as a teenager, Cheryl Brenneke didn't go too long without speaking to or seeing her younger sister.

And up until Jacque Waller's disappearance one month ago, Brenneke saw her sibling, along with her two nieces and nephew, nearly every weekend.

Waller's mother, Ruby Rawson, at the very least talked to her daughter on the phone every other day.

It's never been 30 days.

"We're a very close family. We stay in touch all the time," Rawson said. "This is very trying."

Waller, 39, was last seen by her estranged husband, Clay Waller, in Jackson on June 1 in the area of his then-residence on Woodland Drive and North Neal Street. Because he was the last to see her, he was named by the Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case Squad June 6 as a person of interest, though not a suspect, in connection to his wife's disappearance. He was the second person, after Waller's family, to report her missing and other than one interview with authorities has not cooperated with their investigation. Clay Waller's red GMC Sierra pickup truck and boat were seized shortly after Jacque Waller disappeared as part of the investigation.

Jackson Police Department Chief James Humphreys said Thursday the department has contacted Clay Waller and asked him to come to the station to discuss the case.

"That's about where we get with him," Humphreys said. "We never do see him again or hear back from him."

The Jackson Police Department is now handling the case exclusively after the Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case Squad disbanded June 10 after helping to generate more than 200 leads. Investigators from other agencies are still available to assist Jackson police in Waller's case.

But, as days continue to pass Waller's family is finding it harder to stay hopeful. Like the major case squad, they suspect foul play in their loved one's disappearance and have been vocal about who they think harmed Waller. Police, however, have not said a crime has been committed.

Waller's disappearance has been hardest on her 5-year-old triplets, now staying in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., with Brenneke and her husband, who have temporary custody.

"Nighttime is the worst. I can keep them busy all day long but at night, when they're super tired, they want mommy and they want mommy bad," Brenneke said.

"They still talk about her every day. They want to know where she is," Rawson said.

Co-workers, childhood and high school friends also want to know where Waller is. Many of them, including Bobby Sherill, Amy Williams, and Tina Burrows-Hitt, have organized community searches in parts of Cape Girardeau County. Sunday, Sherrill and several others broke into teams to search areas east of Interstate 55, near the Fruitland exit -- where Waller's blue Honda Pilot was found abandoned with a flat tire.

Humphreys said Sherrill's Sunday search gave the department new leads -- as far as where to search for Waller -- but none returned results. Williams and Burrows-Hitt joined a separate search in a wooded, recreational area in the county Sunday.

Much of the progress in the case the last two weeks has involved eliminating areas law enforcement needs to search for Waller, Humphreys added.

Family members are taking extra steps to find Waller, too, and have arranged to have a K-9 unit of bloodhounds from Kentucky do a search in an area of the county on Tuesday. Cadaver search dogs were used to comb an area in the county on Monday.

Brenneke said she's also contacted a missing persons organization in North Carolina and hopes they can be helpful in finding her sister.

The family is also hoping for national exposure for Waller's case. Rawson said the Today Show has expressed interest in a feature and 48 Hours has also contacted the family for a story.

"About the time I think I've given up hope I'll see a car that looks like hers or a number pop up on my phone and I think it might be her. Then, I realize I haven't given up hope," Brenneke said. "It's been an emotional roller coaster."

"We're going to keep hoping we get national coverage, but if we don't that's OK. I feel like answers are going to come from Southeast Missouri," Rawson said. "As time goes on people are going to come up with things they've seen. We'll get some answers."

Humphreys would like those answers to come sooner than later. Evidence sent to a state crime lab has yet to be returned.

"Obviously we would have liked to have found her already," he said.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Woodland Drive and North Neal Street, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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