COTTONWOOD Investigation continues concerning Shawnta LaRae Pankey, 25, of Grangeville, missing since April 15, with as yet no clear direction on what may be involved in her disappearance.
“We still don’t know if there’s foul play involved and by whom, or if she just walked away,” said detective Jerry Johnson, Idaho County Sheriff’s Office (ICSO). “But as more time goes by without her communicating with her family and her daughter, the odds are much higher that foul play may be involved.”
Johnson said investigators have had a “good response from the public, from businesses,” with information and assistance in search efforts, “and we’re very appreciative.”
Pankey was reportedly last seen on foot near Pine Bar along the Salmon River on Sunday, April 15, about 10 a.m. where she and a boyfriend were camping. She was last seen after the pair had a minor disagreement, and it was reported she decided to go on a walk. She has not been seen or heard from since.
She is a white female, 5’04” tall, 135 pounds, long red curly hair, brown eyes, and was last seen wearing a blue and green tank top, blue jeans, pink cowboy boots and possibly carrying a brown leather purse.
Location efforts last week involved a foot search by ICSO personnel and family members. Johnson said the shortest way out of the area is by road, so a search was conducted along both sides of the roadway, up the river and all the way to the prairie; no sign was found. Water searches were conducted the following days with an individual volunteering his time to search by jet boat.
“He covered quite a bit of area and found no sign,” Johnson said.
ICSO information released Monday, April 23, asked for public assistance for any observations of Pankey on Sunday morning, April 15, anywhere within North Central Idaho. Investigators are also interested in a man, who had a dog and a green pickup with Utah plates and a camper, who was at Pine Bar that April 14-15 weekend.
“There’s no reason to believe this person was involved,” Johnson said, “but we’re not ruling anything out. We want to talk with as many people as we can who were on the river in this time frame.”
One problem hampering the investigation is it is not certain a crime has occurred, according to Johnson, so it limits investigators in the options they can pursue. For example, without probable cause they cannot seek out search warrants.
“We’re still trying to accumulate as much information as we can,” Johnson said, which includes surveillance video that may show Pankey’s movements before she and the boyfriend went to the river. “As well, we’re trying to find any record of her using financial transaction cards, food stamp cards or anything like that. We’ve been striking out on that. We’ve been finding no use since her disappearance.”
Information related to the case can be reported to the ICSO Dispatch Center, 208-983-1100.