As police work to reconstruct the movements of a Richmond woman who has been missing since Nov. 26, her parents say they are frustrated at how key facts about their daughter’s disappearance have changed since police learned she was missing.

Photos of Anneliese Heinig, the 37-year-old woman from Richmond who has been missing since Nov. 26. Photos courtesy of the Richmond Police Department

Anneliese Heinig, a 37-year-old mother of two, was last seen walking away from her parked SUV on Interstate 295 about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 26. But details about the direction she was walking, the precise location of the vehicle and the time it took for the SUV to be towed have shifted since investigators began looking into her disappearance.

The confusion has led to pain for Heinig’s family and the potential loss of hours or days in the search to find her.

“If I were asked what I’d like to see come out of this, is that people understand that in an emergency situation, in a crisis, it is absolutely essential that people be completely confident in the information they’re providing,” said Chris Heinig, the missing woman’s father.

First, the tow truck driver who took Heinig’s SUV away told her family that she had been traveling south on I-295 toward Portland and the car was found near Exit 9, the Washington Avenue exit in Portland, the Heinigs said.

Then, Falmouth police Lt. Jeff Pardue said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald on Monday that the vehicle was traveling north and was found near the Presumpscot River overpass, which is 3 miles north of the Washington Avenue exit.

“I can tell you I personally spoke with the witness (who saw her) and it was articulated directly to me that Ms. Heinig was walking southbound in the northbound lane,” Pardue said Monday afternoon.

And now, the Heinigs say Richmond police told them Tuesday afternoon that Anneliese’s vehicle was actually headed south, as originally thought, but was discovered near the Presumpscot River bridge. When a witness saw her, she was walking toward Portland.

“This is what happens when people start speculating on things,” Chris Heinig said Tuesday night. “Can you imagine how frustrating it is for police or detectives who are trying to solve a case with multiple witnesses, all of whom are giving what they believe is the accurate truth, but what is in fact inaccurate information? It must drive them absolutely insane.”

The first discrepancy, the Heinigs say, appears to have originated with the tow truck driver, who told them the vehicle was found near Exit 9, instead of by mile marker 9, which is near the Presumpscot River bridge.

Based on that information, his wife wrote in a Facebook post Saturday that the black Mercury Mariner SUV had been found.

“(The vehicle) was broken down on 295 (south) near the Washington Street exit #9 and towed to (South) Portland. She was seen walking north on the southbound side at between 6:30 am and 7:30 am Tuesday,” Anne Heinig wrote. “The tow company was called at 8:30 (a.m.) or 9:30 (a.m.) to tow it and never called us as the registered owners.”

In addition to highlighting the discrepancy about where the car was found, Anne Heinig’s post raises the question about when it was towed.

On Tuesday, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, said that although a trooper first noticed the vehicle at 8:30 a.m. and made a cursory check, he took no further action at that time.

He said Maine State Police have a policy that encourages troopers to make contact with the registered owners, but that in this case, Anne and Chris Heinig, who own the SUV, were not contacted. It was unknown whether the trooper tried to contact the Heinigs, or whether the trooper noticed the wallet, car keys and cellphone inside the car during the initial check.

By 1:30 p.m., a state Department of Transportation worker called state police and asked if the SUV could be moved, and the trooper then authorized the tow.

Chris Heinig said if a trooper had reached the family on Nov. 26, the day she left the SUV on the side of the road, the family would have reported Anneliese’s disappearance sooner and started search efforts immediately.

Instead, it was two days later, when she didn’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner, that her family knew she was missing and reported her disappearance to Richmond police. Then Richmond police pinged Anneliese Heinig’s cellphone, which led them to the South Portland tow company that had removed the vehicle from the side of the road Tuesday.

“I don’t have the energy or the inclination to be really frustrated,” Chris Heinig said Tuesday afternoon. “I just hope with every call there is some kind of news. Hopefully, good news.”

He added later: “It reinforces to me that people be careful of what they say, and be sure of the accuracy of what they say, especially in a crisis such as this.”

The family has given Heinig’s computer and cellphone to police, hoping they will assist in reconstructing where their daughter was and what she was doing in the days and hours before she was last seen.

The stress has taken a toll on the family, Chris Heinig said. Anneliese’s younger sister, Grace, began searching for her big sister immediately, and has posted hundreds of fliers around the Portland area, he said. He and his wife are doing all that they can to keep themselves together, Chris Heinig said, adding that it’s an experience he would not wish on anyone. The couple finally ate their Thanksgiving turkey Tuesday night, Chris Heinig said.

Heinig’s friends have organized a vigil for her Friday at 6 p.m. on the mall in Brunswick, he said.

A multi-agency search of the area near where I-295 crosses the Presumpscot River that was suspended Monday night is expected to resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Falmouth police said, but will be complicated by Tuesday’s heavy snowfall.

On Monday, police from Falmouth and Portland along with the Maine State Police, Maine Marine Patrol, Maine Warden Service, and Falmouth Fire Department, scoured areas of I-295, Middle Road and the Presumpscot River in Falmouth on foot, by boat and from an aerial drone.

 

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