Searchers vow to keep looking for missing Washburn man

1 month ago

WASHBURN, Maine — Members of a citizen search team who have been looking for missing Washburn man Erik Foote vow they won’t quit until he’s found.

A group from Aroostook County and elsewhere in Maine scoured the Washburn area over the weekend, with about 25 searchers each day, according to organizer Stacey Baker of Wade.

Foote, 39, was last seen on Jan. 30 near Freshies in Presque Isle, according to the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office. The son of Allan and Brenda Foote of Washburn, he is a veteran known to be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder from his duty in Iraq. The local search is the latest effort to find him.

Erik Foote of Washburn, missing since Jan. 30, is seen in this undated photo.(Courtesy of Stacey Baker)

Though former Washburn police officer Chandler Cole has been arrested on charges of altering reports in the case, searchers are intent on only one thing: finding the missing man, Baker said.

“That will all work itself out, but it’s overshadowing the fact that a man is missing,” she said Tuesday, referring to the charges. “We don’t know where he is and this mother is living a nightmare.”

Allan and Brenda Foote also live in Washburn, and last saw their son for shopping and dinner in January.   

Baker didn’t know the Footes until Erik was reported missing, she said. She suggested launching a Facebook page as an information hub, but Brenda was unsure how to do that — so Baker started one. Help Bring Erik Foote Home now has more than 1,500 friends.

People have been sharing information and searching on their commutes to and from work and on weekends since early February, exploring their own properties, abandoned areas and more.

Baker referred to some social media comments that have blamed police, offered theories or spread negativity. Searchers don’t want to place blame or convict anyone, she said. Their sole purpose is to help find the missing man. 

“The sheriff’s department and police are doing their jobs,” she said. “We might not know what they’re doing, but be assured they are working and they do care.” 

The latest ground search was April 13 and 14. Searchers came from as far away as the Waterville area to help scour the ground around Washburn and Crouseville, Baker said.

With about 25 people each day, they were able to cover a lot of ground. The group has concentrated its efforts near the Washburn area where acquaintances had either seen Foote or knew him to visit — including the baseball area behind Washburn District High School.

They probed nearby ATV trails, railroad beds, both sides of the river and through neighboring Crouseville as well, she said.

“Everybody was working together. We had some rules: nobody [broadcast] live, nobody take pictures, [and] if you find something, back away and don’t touch it,” she said.

They didn’t find anything this weekend, but to have so many people show up was encouraging, Baker said. 

Travis Hartford and Jeff Atwood from Waterville, who host a podcast series on missing people called “Locating the Lost,” came for the weekend, she said. The men brought drones and flew them over the Aroostook River and other Washburn and Crouseville sites. 

Hartford and Atwood featured the Foote case on their March 27 podcast. The men did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Erik Foote’s family wants to personally thank everyone who gave their time to look for Erik, his mother said on Monday.

“The search isn’t over until we have him back,” Brenda Foote said. “Someone reached out to me about using their planes soon to look for Erik. There are compassionate and caring people in our community. It gives us hope and we are grateful.”

For Baker, getting involved was a must because she’s a mother, too. 

Imagine if a child wandered away from their parents in a department store for five minutes, Baker said. Then imagine a child missing for days, then weeks, then months. No matter how old a son or daughter is, they’re always a child to their parents, she added.

Baker said the group won’t stop searching until Foote is found. 

“This man served and protected and would do anything for this country, and that should be the only focus — that we don’t leave him behind,” she said. “He’s on our soil and he’s not going to be left behind if we can help it.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-432-7842.  

Veterans needing support may call the free and confidential Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1.