Milan mother wonders: Where is Michael Sheppard Jr.?

MILAN In October and November, Rosalie Gottwald sat down and wrote every piece of information she co
May 24, 2010



In October and November, Rosalie Gottwald sat down and wrote every piece of information she could recall related to her son's 2003 disappearance -- names, dates, conversations with investigators.

The seven-page timeline goes back to May 2002, when her son, Michael A. Sheppard Jr., came to stay with her in Perkins Township.

Gottwald wants to make sure the case, which has inched forward through the years, doesn't remain stalled as it seems to be now.

"We need to know what happened to him," she said.

All three officers who handled Sheppard's case have left the Perkins Police Department. And the information they gathered is somewhere in the department's archives, Lt. Robb Parthemore said, but no one has found it yet.

Sheppard had been living in Las Vegas, and Gottwald and her husband, George, took him in after a divorce. But they kicked him out when they discovered he was dealing drugs again.

Gottwald last saw her son in late April 2003.

"After Michael disappeared, we didn't really know what was going on until the death threats started," she said.

The calls came from two brothers in Las Vegas who demanded to know where Sheppard was, claiming he had stolen thousands of dollars from a drug dealer. The Gottwalds reported the calls to the Perkins police, then filed a missing person report in June.

But there didn't seem to be much progress on the case, Gottwald said. Her timeline shows a gap between July 2003 and January 2006, then another gap until October 2007, when she sent a letter to the police department asking about the status of the case.

After the letter, then-Chief Tim McClung said he would take over the investigation personally. It had been investigated by Det. Darren Martell, who left the department in spring 2007.

Gottwald said she also gave information to Det. Al Jenkins, whom township trustees fired last week.

Gottwald called McClung every Friday for updates. He talked about other agencies that were investigating, she said, but key people still were not questioned -- such as the men who made the death threats, or the people Sheppard lived with in Norwalk Township just before disappearing.

"I'd get off the phone and cry," she said. "It was all a bunch of baloney."

McClung said the case was handed over to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and would not comment beyond that.

BCI did not respond to a request for information on the status of the case.

Parthemore, the acting Perkins police chief, said it remains an open case with the department.

"At this point I'm still trying to get the information that we have," he said. "I guess I'm still trying to absorb what we have to figure out where the investigators left off."

The documents should be in the department's archives, he said, but he hasn't been able to spare the manpower for a manual search.

Perkins trustee chairman Bill Dwelle said further investigation will probably have to wait until the township hires a new police chief. That way, the case won't risk being handed from person to person again.

Gottwald said Martell told her Sheppard bought a plane ticket to Las Vegas, but she believes he's closer to home.

One of her son's associates, a man who was arrested with Sheppard in Kansas, told a family friend he was buried on the property of his roommates in Norwalk Township. That person relayed the information to the Gottwalds.

The report, Gottwald said, corroborated another one from Huron. But no one has searched the property.

Capt. Bob McLaughlin, the Gottwalds' contact with the Huron County Sheriff's office, did not return calls.

"I want to know if my son's body is buried a mile up the road," said Gottwald, who now lives in Milan. "I think two reports are more than a coincidence."