Brunswick police officers use a drone to search the mudflats Tuesday on the Presumpscot River in Falmouth, near the Interstate 95 overpass where a vehicle driven by Anneliese Heinig of Richmond was recovered in November 2019. Heinig has not been seen or heard from since. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

FALMOUTH — Falmouth police said Tuesday they are continuing the search for Anneliese Heinig, the 38-year-old Richmond woman who disappeared in November 2019.

Anneliese Heinig Courtesy photo

At a news conference next to the Presumpscot River, Chief John Kilbride of the Falmouth Police Department said he hoped searchers would turn up information about the missing woman.

The department, with the help of other agencies, launched drones and boats Tuesday to search the river and the surrounding areas, where the Presumscot flows into Casco Bay.

Heinig’s mother, Anne, said her husband, Chris, and their other daughter, Grace, are still struggling to comprehend what happened to Anneliese, and hold out hope that she is alive. At the very least, they hope police and other searchers can help them find some measure of closure.

“We wake up every day and hope we get a phone call that its her, that she’ll call me and tell me she’s OK and where she is,” Anne Heinig said. “But I haven’t had those phone calls. And I probably won’t get them.

“It’s like you put something on pause, and that’s sort of how I feel. I keep waiting. I keep hoping for the best. But I also keep waiting for another shoe to drop.”

The family also released a written statement to the news media, thanking Falmouth police for their help and asking anyone who remembers seeing something in November, when Anneliese disappeared, or sees anything suspicious in the water now, to call police.

Falmouth firefighters scan the banks of the Presumpscot River on Tuesday in Falmouth, beneath the Interstate 295 overpass where a vehicle driven by Anneliese Heinig of Richmond was recovered in November 2019. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Joining Falmouth police in the search this week are staff from the Maine Marine Patrol and the Brunswick Police and Fire departments, along with Falmouth fire crews. It took time to organize, Kilbride said, and this was the first week when staff from all agencies or organizations could come together in Falmouth.

“I know Marine Patrol has been extremely busy up and down the coast,” he said. “We got a commitment from them this week, so that’s why we’re going to do it the best we can, when we can.”

Falmouth police also released a new “missing” poster for Heinig.

Officers and other searchers said that with increased summertime boating traffic in and around the area where Heinig was reportedly last seen, someone might see something and report it.

Heinig was reported missing Nov. 28, 2019, by her teenage daughter after Heinig failed to show up at a Thanksgiving dinner.

That call was made two days after a Maine state trooper had the vehicle she had been driving, a black Mercury Mariner SUV, towed from a spot where it had apparently been abandoned on the shoulder of Interstate 295 in Falmouth.

At the time, a witness reported seeing someone dressed in black and matching Heinig’s general description walking away from the vehicle near dawn on Nov. 26, 2019.

Heinig had lived in Richmond for about 15 years, most recently with her daughter. Heinig’s young son lived nearby with his father, Ryan Theriault.

Chief James Donnell of the Richmond Police Department, who was then a sergeant with the department, had pinged Heinig’s cellphone and tracked it to a tow yard in South Portland.

When the Heinigs recovered the SUV, they found her cellphone, keys and wallet inside the vehicle, which was low on gas.

Anne Heinig said police also conducted a detailed location-tracking search of the cellphone that showed Anneliese had driven to Portland that morning and then heading north again. The last location was in the area of the overpass bridge, she said.

In the days following Anneliese’s disappearance, family and friends distributed “missing” posters and reached out through social media for any help in finding the missing woman.

By the second week in December, members of her family acknowledged they might not see her alive again.

At that point, a multiagency search, including the Falmouth and Portland Police departments, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol and Falmouth Fire Department, had been searching the area around the Presumpscot River, suspending the search for a day when a storm blew through the region.

Falmouth firefighters scan the banks of the Presumpscot River on Tuesday in Falmouth, beneath the Interstate 295 overpass where a vehicle driven by Anneliese Heinig of Richmond was recovered in November 2019. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Maine State Police divers and game wardens used boats equipped with sonar to search the river in December. Aircraft and a drone have been deployed to search at low tide, and the U.S. Coast Guard has searched the bays.

Public records detail Heinig’s troubled past, including threats to jump off a bridge. More than a year before her disappearance, she had been under a court order to complete a psychiatric program at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick and to seek counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, following a violent outburst that prompted Theriault to seek a protection from abuse order against her.

In an interview with the Kennebec Journal in December, Christopher Heinig said his daughter had completed counseling and remained active with one of her therapy groups. She had recently started working at SaviLinx at Brunswick Landing, a job she liked and would make her financially secure. The company provides customer support services to other companies.

On Tuesday, Anne Heinig said her daughter struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after a sexual assault in college in which she was drugged and raped.

“That trauma was always with her, and she just couldn’t seem to get beyond some of it,” Anne Heinig said. “She was getting help — with counseling in the last year and a half — and was doing quite well.”

Kilbride met reporters Tuesday at the mouth of the Presumpscot on Middle Road, the nearest point to the overpass where police believe she might have jumped into the water.

Chief John Kilbride of the Falmouth Police Department asks the public Tuesday to remain on the lookout for Anneliese Heinig of Richmond, who was last seen in November 2019. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

Kilbride said search efforts picked back up in April, when the icy river and surrounding bay waters began to thaw. Since then, teams have gone out a half-dozen times looking for Heinig.

He said the mouth of the river has proven one of the most-treacherous places for divers and other searchers because of a powerful tidal flow that can regularly ebb 10 feet in a day, draining and filling the basin with each cycle.

“She could be in this area, she could be in Portland, she could be 10 miles out,” Kilbride said. “She could be anywhere at this particular point.”

Police have also distributed the “missing” poster and information about Heinig to about 1,200 people with moorings in Falmouth, and to others with moorings in Portland.

Elver fishermen and recreational swimmers and boaters frequent that stretch of the Presumpscot, Kilbride said, giving police hope someone would find something. But as the months wore on, no new evidence was found.

“We were really hoping early on in the spring to have more clues,” he said.

Searchers have also consulted with experts on tidal flow and storms, among other variables, but it is nearly impossible to pinpoint where Anneliese could be.

In Richmond, Donnell said his department received several tips and telephone calls in the days after Heinig’s disappearance was reported, but none panned out. Since then, he said, there has been none.

Kilbride said the search is turning into the Falmouth Police Department’s largest in at least 25 years, in terms of scope and commitment of staff time.

“What makes this unsettling for us is that we generally find what we’re looking for out here,” he said. “And not to find her is upsetting.”

Portland Press Herald staff writer Matt Byrne contributed to this report.

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