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Missing man baffles searchers

Staff writer

Despite an intense search covering 200 square miles of territory around Peabody, distribution of hundreds of fliers, television coverage, and alerts to state and national agencies, Gale “Ralph” Keilman remains a man who vanished without a trace.

Keilman left Peabody Health and Rehab Aug. 17 by going over a tall wood slab fence surrounding a patio used by facility residents.

He was seen going over the wall and staff was alerted. Marion County dispatch was contacted a few minutes later.

Despite several hours of door-to-door searching that night by off-duty nursing home staff, police, a K-nine unit, volunteers, and state troopers, no trace of Keilman was found.

The majority of searchers quit looking several hours later, but some stayed out all night. Law enforcement officers spent the next day clearing vacant houses, out buildings, and storage sheds in and around Peabody in hopes of finding him, but again found nothing.

On Aug. 19, Peabody Police officers divided about 30 volunteers and law enforcement personnel into four-man teams and they searched until dark. Volunteers aiding in the search were from Peabody, Florence, Walton, Hillsboro, Marion, and rural areas.

They covered 183 square miles of fields, pasture, roads, culverts, wooded areas, and waterways around Peabody, and 22 miles of railroad right of way. Using all-terrain vehicles, cars and pickups, searchers on foot, and a Kansas Highway Patrol “fixed-wing aircraft” from Hays, the groups stayed out until after dark.

Still they found no trace of Keilman.

The three major Wichita news stations and a couple of radio stations covered the case and kept it before the public until Thursday.

On Monday, Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke said they continue to follow up on tips and sightings.

“We have had contact from the Topeka area, Ness County, Dickinson County, and of course, Marion County,” he said. “Some of the tips come directly to us and some come through law enforcement agencies in those areas. We have followed up on all of them, but without success.”

Burke said that without solid leads, there is no point in searching aimlessly.

“We just have no idea which direction Keilman went when he left Peabody Health and Rehab,” he said.

Peabody Health and Rehab Administrator Melissa Parmley declined comment other than to say they are still hopeful he will be found.

While Burke has serious doubts about Keilman still being in the area, he encourages anyone with information or suspicions about his whereabouts to call 911 or (620) 983-2133 immediately.

Last modified Aug. 27, 2015

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