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Day 3: Student Lauren Spierer still missing, friends build support network


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By CJ Lotz



The search for missing junior Lauren Spierer became more organized and focused on day three as groups met throughout the day in front of Smallwood Plaza, the apartment complex that Spierer never reached.

Spierer’s parents met with the Bloomington Police Department throughout the day. They will attend a BPD press meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday to speak with reporters.

On Monday, the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center stepped in as the primary organizers of searches.

Rabbi Sue Silberberg and other Hillel volunteers passed out printed maps with a highlighted square around Bloomington. The area had been gridded out and numbered so that groups of about five people could search each area. There were about 25 areas.

Organizers advised the searchers to stay where they were if they found something of interest. Searchers also posted fliers providing information on Lauren. Throughout the day, more than 500 volunteers showed up to help, according to estimates based on the sign up sheets at the searches. Several IU athletic teams and coaches also helped in the search.

Lauren was last seen near the corner of 11th Street and College Avenue, heading south on College at 4:30 a.m. Friday, June 3, according to the BPD. Police will not confirm who saw her last.

Lauren’s mother, Charlene Spierer, said Lauren had been out with friends at Kilroy’s Sports Bar earlier in the evening. The bar closes on Fridays at 3 a.m.

Police would not comment on where Lauren was between 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

Video cameras at the Smallwood apartment complex show Lauren never made it home.

Blair Wallach, also an IU junior, has been Lauren’s best friend since the two were 9 years old. Wallach left IU after spring finals and is at home in New Jersey.

Saturday, Wallach started receiving panicked texts and phone calls from friends saying they had not heard from Lauren all day.

“It was a huge game of telephone,” Wallach said. “All of a sudden, my phone was blowing up with calls and texts. All her friends and family have been connected ever since.”

Saturday morning, Charlene and Robert Spierer flew to Indianapolis, rented a car, drove to Bloomington, and began searching for their daughter themselves. They alerted the BPD, which started searching the area around Smallwood with canine units, Robert said.

Sunday morning, friends, local residents and a few students who live in Smallwood met with the Spierer family to search for Lauren. The Spierers said they wanted to search further than the immediate area, and they wanted to do anything to look for their daughter.

They are from Westchester County, N.Y., and are unfamiliar with the surrounding Bloomington area. They had, however, heard about the Jill Behrman case that involved searching wooded areas around Bloomington, so they decided to head outside the city.

With help from locals, campers, boaters and volunteers, the family drove around Lake Monroe, hanging up fliers on trees and at boat ramps. The parents also yelled for their daughter when they stopped along the gravel road and walked through the woods surrounding Lake Monroe.

Charlene told the IDS that Lauren suffers from a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, which made it all the more important that anyone who knew her whereabouts contact BPD, she said.

Long QT is an inherited condition, Bloomington cardiologist Dr. Louis J. Calli said. Its symptoms can be arrhythmic heart beats and passing out. In some cases, heart palpitations can lead to sudden cardiac death, but the incidence of death caused by this condition is quite rare, Calli said.

Loud noises, exercise and stress can aggravate some types of the syndrome, Calli said.

“There are many known triggers, but I would not say that alcohol is one of them,” Calli said. “This is someone who has a well-known genetically identified condition. That would of course be a concern that something could happen while she is missing.”

The Spierers met with Bloomington police Sunday evening and throughout the day Monday. At 11 a.m. Monday, police only said they were continuing to investigate and they had not found Lauren. They made no further comments throughout the day.

The Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith sent out a message Monday morning alerting students and faculty that workers would search the IU campus and buildings for any trace of Lauren.

Associate Dean of Students Carol McCord said she had been in touch with the family and had alerted them to the campus searches. She said students who are affected by Lauren’s disappearance can contact IU Counseling and Psychological Services.

McCord stressed that it is too easy to spout blame at someone who may have been drinking or walking alone. She said that she hopes people will stick to the fact that someone who many people love is missing.

“Information about someone being at risk is scary for us and we want to distance ourselves from the possibility of something bad happening to ourselves,” she said. “We want the reason that something happens to someone to be their fault because it’s easier to say ‘Oh, she must put herself at risk.’ It’s a natural human response and that does not in any way make it right. I would encourage people to fight against that and go with their higher response and ask themselves, ‘How can I help someone and be understanding?’”

For Lauren’s friend Blair Wallach, helping means staying connected at a distance. While in New Jersey, she has turned her couch into an office. She’s tweeting, sending Facebook messages and emailing national news outlets to cover this story.
 
She said she just wanted to do something to help spread the message that her best friend is missing.

It’s the least she can do, she said, to support Lauren. She said she misses everything about Lauren — her love for cheap delivery pizza, her support through difficult times, and the memories of deciding to attend IU together and share a room freshman year.

Blair said she wishes she knew what happened early Friday morning.

“I know what everyone knows. Honestly, the only things that I know are the facts that are out there. I have no idea if she went somewhere else. All I know is she never went to Smallwood.”

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Bloomington Police Department Lt. Scott Oldham gives a search assignment to a group of volunteers at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. The BPD became more involved with the searches organized by the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center by the end of the day Monday. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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Students and other volunteers stream out of the lobby at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. According to a rough count of sign-in sheets, more than 400 people volunteered to help at this 5:30 search, in addition to about 20 volunteers at 10 a.m. and about 100 at 1 p.m. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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John Summerlot directs people separating into groups at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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Rising junior Brittney Semanick puts her phone number on a sign-in sheet using the back of rising junior Rachel Dines at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. According to a rough count of those sign-in sheets, more than 400 people showed up at 5:30 to help search. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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IU women's basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack talks with volleyball head coach Sherry Dunbar at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Both coaches brought many of their athletes to help in the search. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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Volunteers stand outside the lobby to receive assignments at the start of the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. The searches centered around campus and the town for most of the day. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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More than 400 volunteers wait outside for search assignment for the third public search of the day for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Alex Farris Buy Photos
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Graduate students Maria Benzie and Stephanie Smith walk across College Avenue at the end of their group's search for Lauren Spierer on Monday in front of Smallwood Plaza. Benzie and Smith's group searched between Sixth and Eighth streets, and Washington Street and Indiana Avenue. Alex Farris Buy Photos

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