BELMONT A month after Belmont Wal-Mart employee Liz Stonger disappeared without a trace, family, friends and investigators are still looking.
Theyve been in the field with search parties, a police dog, a highway patrol helicopter and now a psychic, trying everything to solve the mystery. Stonger hasnt called or e-mailed. She also hasnt used her bank card or cellphone.
Whether the 27-year-old single mother is the victim of foul play or an accident is a question that pains her family daily. Weighing on their minds is the case of the two Catawba County teens who disappeared the day before Stonger on a trip to Myrtle Beach.
On Oct. 28, a team with Wilmington-based CUE Center for Missing Persons discovered a wrecked car in marshy water blow the Interstate 20 bridge between Columbia and Florence, S.C. Inside were the bodies of Jake Ziegler, 18, and Ray Pierce, 17.
CUE will soon be assisting with the search for Stonger, which has centered on the part of western North Carolina where her last cellphone activity came from.
On Saturday, , family and friends will meet at the Wal-Mart in Belmont to launch another search. Part of the focus will be around the Catawba County town of Maiden, an area of interest identified by the same psychic who was a consultant in the case of the Catawba County teens.
Maybe Liz went that way and decided to get off the road, said Stongers sister, Amy Stonger of Gastonia. Maybe she was lost and tried to find someone.
On Oct. 14, Liz Stonger, the mother of a 2-year-old son, clocked out on her lunch break at Wal-Mart around 1:15 p.m. According to Belmont Police, a store video shows Stonger waving at people in the parking lot before she got into her 1998 Chevrolet Lumina and drove away.
That was the last known sighting. Authorities determined the last signal from Stongers cellphone came from a tower in the McDowell County/Marion area around 11 p.m. that same day.
You cant let it stop
Belmont Police Det. T. A. Buchanon said that on Nov. 9 detectives with his department met with the McDowell County Sheriffs Office and organized a ground search around the tower that took the last known ping from Stongers cellphone.
Belmont officers also brought a police dog to assist in the search.
The tower is off Old US 221 South near the intersection of I-40. Buchanon said searchers covered a radius of 3-to-5 miles.
Next they went to Linville Falls and searched backroads and campsites. All local hotels, rest stops, gas stations and post offices were checked and fliers about the case left behind.
Meanwhile, he said the sheriffs office contacted the N.C. Highway Patrol in Asheville and organized a 30-mile helicopter search.
The ground and air sweeps turned up nothing. The few tips that came in have all hit dead ends, Buchanon said.
Stongers vehicle is on a national police network.
If the tag is run, itll show up as a missing person, Buchanon said. This is still an ongoing investigation. Were investigating each lead that comes in.
This is one of those deals where were looking and searching and believe its just a matter of time before we get the right call, Buchanon said.
Stonger, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., moved to Gaston County with her family about ten years ago. Amy Stonger said her sister majored in geology at UNC Charlotte, but had to drop out after she became pregnant. Liz Stonger lived with her mother, Deb Grover, in the town of Lowell.
Amy Stonger said her sister had been worried about their mother facing possible foreclosure and having their lives disrupted.
But she doesnt believe her sister ran away from her young son.
I know her, Amy Stonger said. This is not an intentional thing. No way.
Stonger contacted the CUE Center for Missing Persons (CUE stands for Community United Effort), which provides professional training volunteers to assist law enforcement.
CUE Center founder Monica Caison said the organization will be talking to law enforcement officers and coming up with a search plan.
No case is the same, she said. But it takes persistence and dedication to the search. You cant let it stop.
Meanwhile, Amy Stonger has also connected with psychic medium Mary Beth Wrenn of Kannapolis.
A professional psychic medium for 25 years, Wrenn has visions she calls a God-given gift.
In the Liz Stonger case, she feels the focus should be in the U.S. 321 area near Maiden.
Although the ping from Stongers cellphone was in Marion, I keep getting Maiden, Wrenn said.
Ive also seen an impression of the word dairy cow, she said.
Wrenn has the impression Stonger was on a country road and feels there was a car accident.
She may have run down an embankment so wooded the vehicle couldnt be easily seen.
Unfortunately, I dont feel she is alive, Wrenn said. Im praying to God she is found alive. But Im not feeling that.
On her Facebook page, Wrenn comments that Stonger ..is not far and will be found close to home.
Amy Stonger has been searching on weekends with friends and relatives.
We start out days hoping, she said. By the time we get home were more and more discouraged. Were sitting there in silence.
Its also a hard time because her sisters little boy still cries every night for his momma, Stonger said. Its so tough on him.
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