Family continues search for Byrne

Fred Byrne

Mother-in-law coordinates online, print flier campaign in Michigan, Missouri

HOLLAND — For more than two weeks, family and friends have been working with law-enforcement officials to find missing Big Rapids man Fred Byrne.

Few tips have come in, but the search continues.

“Unfortunately, the tips haven’t panned out as we would like, but they help because it lets us know that people care and are looking for Fred,” said Marie Hamilton, Byrne’s mother-in-law. “From what we hear on the comments on Facebook, people truly care and want to do whatever they can to help.

“The extension of hundreds of people has really humbled and amazed us.”

Byrne, 49, was last seen around 3 p.m. on Feb. 12 in Holland Township. Police say he was leaving his mother’s residence after stopping to see her after taking his son back to Hope College. He had plans to stop at Rivertown Crossings mall in Grandville on his way back home to Big Rapids.

His car was found outside the Mark Twain National Forest in Van Buren, Mo. on Feb. 14. Since then, there have been no significant developments in the case.

Hamilton has been coordinating a flier campaign, both online and print, to expand the search for Byrne in Michigan and Missouri. Her daughter, Diana, is working closely with law enforcement in both states.

“Most of the contact we’ve had has been through Facebook. The goal is for us to keep the search for Fred going and in the front of everyone’s mind,” Hamilton said. “We’re starting to target college students going on spring break, handing them fliers to give to friends. If someone is traveling and they have a flier, they can ask someone if they have seen Fred.”

Law enforcement officials involved in the search for Byrne met late last week in Holland to discuss the ground they’ve covered and where they’ll begin searching next.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Missouri are collecting surveillance video from places they believe Byrne could have been since Feb. 12, said Big Rapids Public Safety Det. Brian Miller. They’ll also conduct “dumps” of information from cell phone towers in Missouri near where Byrne’s car was found.

“We obtained search warrants (Wednesday) to get into the cell towers to obtain any information they may provide,” Miller said. “(Although Fred did not carry a cell phone), if somebody else may have had a cell phone in that area that may not correspond with the numbers that would be consistent with that part of Missouri it could be a lead.

“We’re trying to gather as much information as we can to give some answers to the family on Fred’s well-being and whereabouts. The important thing is to keep the information about Fred out there so the public continues to be aware of what has happened in his disappearance.”

Hamilton spoke fondly of her son-in-law, noting that he is a caring and respectful person with a “huge heart and a great deal of integrity.”

“He always was there to help people who were down on their luck. He generously gave of himself and his time,” Hamilton said. “He’s a very dependable person, which is why this is such a mystery. He’s always very structured in his day and routine. … We want to do everything we can to bring him back.”

Anyone with information about Byrne’s whereabouts is asked to contact Det. Brian Miller at DPS at (231) 527-0005.

 

Fred Byrne is a 49-year-old white male, 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs about 340 pounds, and has blond hair and blue eyes.

He was last seen on Feb. 12 at his mother’s house in Holland Township.

Police say he was leaving his mother’s residence after stopping to see her after taking his son back to school at Hope College. He told her he intended on stopping at Rivertown Crossings mall in Grandville on his way back home to Big Rapids.

His car was later found in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

Anyone with information about Byrne is asked to call Det. Brian Miller at DPS at (231) 527-0005.

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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