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Patty Vest stifled her tears and took a deep breath to collect herself so that she could continue to assist in the search efforts for her mother.
With every day that passes, the hope of finding the 87-year-old woman missing for a week and a half grows dimmer, although the determination to keep searching was reflected in the eyes of everyone in the room Monday at the Centenary Methodist Church on Main Street, which has been serving as a command post for volunteer searchers.
Vest pointed to a number of maps pinned across one wall, each depicting a different search grid.
"This one is for the national guard, this one is the walking search, and this one is the four-wheeler search," she explained.
On each map, streets that have already been searched were highlighted with colored markers. The maps were created by Shelby County sheriff's deputy Jim Insco, who, although not involved in the investigation, has been helping the family with their search efforts.
"He just came in and helped us," Vest said. "He organized this and he and his wife both have just been a lifesaver to us."
Vest's siblings, Jake, Jimmy, Bobby and Donny Ethington, as well as sister-in-law Patty Ethington, were clustered around the room, talking, examining the maps, or drinking coffee and wearing weariness like a cloak.
"Yesterday we had search teams going to all the warehouses, and a lot of the towing places and junkyards," said Patty Ethington, shaking her head in despair. "We've checked barns, we've checked garages, we've checked pools."
Maxine Ethington, 87, has been missing since May 25. Even though she no longer drives and her license is no longer valid, she apparently got in her 2001 silver Buick Sentry and drove away from her home on Craig Avenue in Shelbyville. She has not been seen since, and neither police nor search parties have been able to turn up any trace of the long-time Shelbyville resident, who is suffering from dementia.
Despite a massive search which has been continuing since the Sunday before last, Ethington has not been found, neither has her car turned up. Maj. Danny Goodwin, with the Shelbyville Police Department, said at this point, foul play is not suspected, but has not been ruled out. He added that search efforts are continuing, although the air searches by the Civil Air Patrol and the Kentucky National Guard have ended.
"Why would you keep looking for your car keys in the kitchen when you've already looked in there three times?" he said. "It's useless to keep looking in the same place over and over."
Goodwin added that despite coming up empty-handed, police officers, sheriff's deputies, firefighters, and many other agencies are continuing to look for Ethington.
"We have been using all our resources to try to find her," he said. "We are doing everything humanly possible to locate her," he added, not complaining about the circles under his own eyes from his determined, but unfortunately, unsuccessful, attempts to find a lady nearly 90 years old, dressed only in a housecoat, with no money, who may not even know her own name.
Despite being widely recognizable throughout the community, a factor which searchers had initially hoped would help them find Ethington, no trace of the missing woman has been found, although police are continuing to pursue some leads, Goodwin said.
"We've even had a lead that she was seen in Indiana, when a woman matching her description was seen there, but that did not pan out," he said.
A description of Ethington has been sent to police and sheriff's departments across the country, including her native Casey County in Kentucky. However, the FBI has not been called in, Goodwin said, because at this point, the search is still that of a missing person, which the bureau does not investigate.
One new thing that the family has done is to have some of the flyers with their mother's picture on it printed in Spanish, Patty Ethington said.
"We've heard that some of the [Hispanic] population here has said, 'Oh, now we know what has been going on.'"
Patty Vest said that the family is grateful to the entire community for their support.
"We are just so thankful for everybody and all the help they have given us," she said. "We couldn't have done this on our own."
Anyone with any information on the missing woman is asked to call 633-2323 or 633-2326.
Maxine Ethington, 87
Last seen wearing black housecoat with white snowflakes
Wearing gold shoes and carrying black purse
Driving a 2001 silver Buick Sentra with damage on left side
License plate Ky. 186-BLY
May be confused or disoriented
Call 633-4510 if you would like to help with search