After two nights and two blistering, hot days in the woods, 64-year-old Sherry Vause was found safely by searchers Wednesday morning a short distance from her home in Sam Houston Lake Estates near Tarkington.
Vause disappeared Monday from her home at the end of a private road inside of the flood-prone subdivision, about 200 yards from the Trinity River. She was last seen by her husband, Sydney, Monday morning as he left for a doctor’s appointment.
Rescuers on Wednesday pinpointed an area to search based on maps and where she had been spotted on a neighbor’s game camera Monday night. Search dogs also narrowed down the area.
In the end, it was the exhaustive efforts of law enforcement officers, coupled with assistance from Texas EquuSearch and firefighters, that led to her safe recovery.
Pct. 2 Constable David Hunter, Deputy Constable Darrell Werner, DPS Sgt. Rob Willoughly and Troopers Preston Gustavson, Cody Buntion and Trevor Whatley were the first to find Vause. Hunter, Werner and Whatley were searching together while the other troopers checked another area nearby.
Hunter said they found a trail of Vause’s possessions in the woods that led them to a dry ravine. Vause was on the opposite bank, trying to sort out which way to go.
“We heard her call out to us and called back to her. Then she hollered back, and we knew we had found her. When we got to her, she said, ‘I’m so glad you found me because I was tired of walking,’” Hunter said. “She had lost her shoes and was barefooted.”
Despite being severely dehydrated and suffering insect bites, Vause was well, Hunter said.
“It’s a good day when you can bring someone out alive,” the constable added.
Volunteers from Texas EquuSearch arrived in the woods shortly before Vause was found. They had waited patiently Wednesday morning as the search dogs tracked her trail. As they returned to the command station less than an hour into their search, the volunteers were smiling at the happy outcome.
Inside the command station, set up in an old, dance hall that was abandoned after numerous hurricanes and floods took a toll on the structure, Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Ken DeFoor and Texas EquuSearch coordinators Jack Boggess and David White were relieved. As veteran searchers – DeFoor is the local Texas EquuSearch coordinator –
they have seen the devastation to families when the search becomes a body recovery and not a rescue.
In April 2012, the body of missing 2-year-old Devin Davis was found in a pond just 200 yards or so from the command station. As they waited for Vause to be transported to the main road Wednesday where an ambulance awaited, several peace officers walked to the edge of the pond to reflect on Davis’ recovery.
“It doesn’t look the same, does it? There weren’t as many plants growing on the pond at that time,” one investigator said to another.
Davis was missing four days before his body was found floating on the pond. His death was ruled an accidental drowning.
By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org