Missing in Action

Friends and relatives push for more information about the Chuck Simmons case.

For Frannie Young, the only thing worse than losing her boyfriend is the notion that investigators looking into his disappearance may have forgotten he's even gone. She said she prays that the "down-to-earth gentleman" she met four years ago at a Tucson Weekly mixer is still out there somewhere.

"I really haven't been able to get answers from anybody," she said. "It's just hard--it's unbearable, to be quite honest. I don't know where the investigation is going. You just have to sit and wait to hear something positive, and as time moves on, you start feeling like you're not going to hear what you want to--that he's alive."

Friends and relatives of mineral-lover Chuck Simmons, who vanished in mid-January, say that Pima County Sheriff's Department investigators have given them the cold shoulder. They claim the lack of communication is making an agonizing situation even more intolerable.

Specifically, Simmons' friends and relatives cite unreturned phone calls and, when brief contact with investigators was made, broken promises to stay in touch.

Scott Patterson, a longtime friend who's been spearheading efforts to get information about the missing man, said he feels "frustration" at the lack of communication with the sheriff's department. He offered to be a conduit between PCSD and Simmons' friends and family, but he has yet to hear anything substantial from authorities.

Thirsty for information, Patterson made several phone calls to the lead investigator weeks ago. None were returned.

Finally, the investigator phoned Patterson when he sent the deputy an e-mail asking him "to exhibit a little compassion." During that short conversation, the deputy said he was going on vacation and would get in touch with him when he got back. Some 10 days later, Patterson had yet to hear from him.

So Patterson tried an alternate route: He worked the phones and finally got the deputy's superior, who told him "that the investigation from that time forward would get much more responsive to calls," he said.

"Even after that commitment, I'm not sure when they're going to turn this increased communication on," Patterson said. "I'm not inclined to lash out at the sheriff's department, but I have yet to be comprehensively interviewed by this investigation. We certainly have a desire for them to have all the information they can collect in order to connect the dots.

"We (the friends) know that the PCSD is a sophisticated and resourceful agency," he added. "Even with a sizable caseload, we trust that they're conducting a comprehensive investigation to solve the mystery of our friend's disappearance. We simply contend that his closest friends and family have a right to know how the investigation is progressing."

Karen Sapp feels like she's being kept in the dark, too. She found out about her cousin's disappearance through a family friend nearly one month after it happened. Sapp said she got the investigating deputy on the phone after several attempts, but didn't get much out of him.

She added that she found it odd authorities didn't contact family members since they presumably had access to his address book.

"Don't you formulate a family tree and start calling people for information?" she asked. "It seems very strange to me. It makes me think nothing's being done. I guess my big fear is, you know, that they've done a little searching, and it's going to go away."

Elsa Maginnis, Simmons' aunt, expressed similar frustration. Despite numerous attempts, family members still haven't gotten any questions answered "point-blank," she said.

"At first, they probably didn't know about relatives back east," said Maginnis, a resident of Columbus, Ohio. "But now they do, because they've heard from every one of us. You'd think they would just have a little more empathy for the family."

The Weekly has had problems getting calls returned, too. The PCSD never returned calls when we first reported on Simmons' disappearance ("Vanishing Act," Feb. 5). For this story, the deputy looking into the case didn't return a phone call seeking comment before our deadline. Deputy Dawn Barkman, a PCSD spokeswoman, said the investigator was "busy with an inventory" and may not be able to respond immediately.

"He (Simmons) is still missing," she said. "I don't know if we have any type of feeling whether or not he is deceased. Obviously, we're still investigating the case, and, until we find him, we're not going to know that information."

In the meantime, Simmons' friends and family are working with 88-CRIME to put up missing posters around Tucson, and are sending fliers to friends in other cities. Young, in particular, is pinning her hopes on these efforts.

Fighting back tears during a phone call, she reminisced about her boyfriend, recalling how excited he was to give rock specimens to her friends when they started dating.

She described Simmons as an "upbeat, sweet person" who "never said a bad word."

"I know other people say that a lot about people, but he really was," she said, catching herself. "I know I shouldn't say 'was'--past tense--but it's very hard with time going on and on and not hearing any information.

"It's hard to make any sense of it on a day-to-day basis," Young continued. "There's just an empty spot and a hole--it's just so empty. It seems like people have forgotten he's missing."

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