On the last day of general public searches for missing IU student Lauren Spierer, volunteer Jeff Ritter kept doing what he had done for more than a week.
“Every place we look is a place that’s been searched and a place we can cross off the list,” he said.
About 20 other volunteers, with help from professional searchers, brought an end to broad-based searches for the 20-year-old IU student, who has been missing since June 3.
The atmosphere in McNutt Residence Center was hopeful, yet sad that it was almost the end of the run.
“When I heard they were doing that, it was a letdown to me,” Ritter said just before going on one last general search.
Future searches will now follow specific leads received by the Bloomington Police Department and other agencies.
The searches that have happened for about four weeks, in which volunteers searched as much of Bloomington and Monroe County as possible, have ended.
Volunteer search organizer John Summerlot said Wednesday morning that a “hard-core group that has been searching every day” will be on call for future searches.
“We can send out a mass email, ‘Hey, we need 300 people,’ and I have no doubt we can do it,” he said.
Charlene and Robert Spierer visited the search’s command center at McNutt Residence Center twice Wednesday, the second time about half an hour before the afternoon search left the dormitory.
The parents said they had not made any plans to leave Bloomington.
Searchers and supporters flowed through McNutt throughout the day.
One search party left at about 9:45 a.m., while another left closer to 12:30 p.m.
Volunteer Crystal Rainwater brought six Tupperware containers of muffins upstairs to the search headquarters at McNutt, while another volunteer walked downstairs with four blue rubber bracelets with #FINDLAUREN imprinted on them. The bracelets, she said, were given to volunteer searchers.
At about 2:05 p.m., Charlene Spierer walked into search headquarters where she saw Ritter, who had gone on the 12:30 p.m. search. Charlene saw the mud on his blue jeans.
“Looks like you’ve been working,” she said.
“Yep, fell down twice,” Ritter replied.
At about 2:20 p.m., a group of five volunteers left the main room of search headquarters after a briefing with organizer Don Cranfill.
The group, which included Robert Spierer’s cousin Roy, was sent to an area near the intersection of State Road 446 and Old S.R. 446 near Lake Monroe.
The group, many of which had searched nearly every day for at least the past week, said they were sad the general searches had ended but happy they could help.
As the group drove to S.R. 446, junior Tom Schmitt looked out at campus from his truck.
“It’s a shame we got all these kids walking around,” he said, “and we only got five people going out.”
Once the group reached a car shop on the side of the highway, the group split up and decided where to go.
Their search was spurred by someone who, much earlier, had reported buzzards circling nearby.
“Best wishes, y’all,” Ritter said as they split up.
He and Schmitt rode in Schmitt’s truck to the Cabin Restaurant and Lounge
From there, they walked south along the highway, continuing what had been done for nearly four weeks: searching grass tall and short for any clues.
Shortly after, Schmitt found a femur near a creek in the bottom of a roadside ravine.
The femur seemed short for a human, but he called for Ritter, who had the walkie-talkie and was searching in a ravine on the other side of the road.
Once the two reunited, they both looked again at the bone.
On the walk back up the slope, Ritter found a pile of bones. They included another femur, ribs and vertebrae.
Ritter called search headquarter leaders, who sent a BPD car to the scene. After two officers searched the area, a department anthropologist walked down the ravine to inspect the bones.
The two officers walked back up the ravine. One officer shook his head, while the anthropologist said, “Not human.”
The anthropologist made the conclusion while Ritter and Schmitt walked further south along the highway.
They continued their efforts of the last four weeks.
“I was kind of surprised it lasted this long,” Schmitt said about the general searches. “It just shows you how important finding her is to the community.”