By Tim Leeds
A Texas-based national organization will conduct a search for a Havre man who hasn't contacted his family since July 12.
Texas EquuSearch will coordinate a three-day search in Grand Forks, N.D., for Russell Turcotte. Turcotte wired his mother from Grand Forks to ask for money to take the train home. Linda Flynn of Wolf Point wired her son $100 the next day, but he never picked the money up.
His father, Bill Turcotte of Havre, said today he will participate in the search, which begins Oct. 18.
He said he believes his son is alive.
"I'm his father, and I just don't believe my son's dead," he said.
Tim Miller, founder and director of EquuSearch, said the search will last at least three days. If any new leads or information is found, the search could be extended, he said.
The organization drives through an area to be searched and uses maps and aerial photographs to decide what resources will be needed. At least one airplane will probably be used, and people on horseback and all-terrain vehicles will be among the volunteers, Miller said. The search could include a helicopter, more airplanes and dogs.
Russell Turcotte, 19, left Havre and rode with a friend to a Rainbow Gathering in the Ottawa National Forest near Watersmeet, Mich., which was held July 1-7. Turcotte decided to stay longer than his friend, his father said. He rode with some other friends to Brainerd, Minn., then hitchhiked to Fargo and Grand Forks in North Dakota.
"Once he got to Grand Forks, we lost track of him," Bill Turcotte said.
The Rainbow Gathering, which has its roots in the hippie movement of the 1960s, was the second such meeting Russell had attended.
Bill Turcotte said he's trying to remain upbeat about his son's whereabouts.
"I'm trying to rationalize why we haven't heard from him," he said.
Both he and Russell's mother, Linda Flynn of Wolf Point, use cell phones and are difficult to reach at times, he said. Most of his son's siblings and friends have moved to go to college or to new jobs, he added.
"So he doesn't even have these people's phone numbers," Turcotte said.
Russell was supposed to be the best man at the wedding of one of his best friends, and he didn't show up. That friend has since moved and also has a new phone number, Bill Turcotte said.
Russell's family has attempted to find him by traveling to Minnesota and North Dakota looking for leads and putting up fliers along the route.
"Actually we haven't had any solid leads," he said.
Lt. Dennis Eggebraaten of the Grand Forks Police Department said his department will help EquuSearch in any way it can. EquuSearch has sent a couple of e-mails to the department, but hasn't contacted it personally yet, he said.
"If they come across any leads, we will be available to help," he said.
The Grand Forks police are aware of Turcotte's disappearance, but have no evidence of foul play.
"We don't have any leads to go on," Eggebraaten said.
EquuSearch was formed by Miller in 2000. He said he knows the frustration of getting little help for finding a missing son or daughter. His daughter, Laura, disappeared in 1994.
"Nobody would listen to me and they found her body 17 months later," Miller said. "I just remember the loneliness and frustration."
EquuSearch has participated in 113 searches in the 26 months it has existed and has found 94 people. Of those, 18 had died. Some were victims of murder or suicide, one died from a heart attack and one had drowned.
"The remainder of them have gotten home safely," Miller said.
Russell Turcotte's sister, Maggie, who lives in Houston contacted EquuSearch, Miller said.
"I feel as though this family needs our help," he said.
Volunteers, who must be 18 and older, are asked to contact EquuSearch to help with the search. The organization is looking for people familiar with the Grand Forks area, people with horses or four-wheel drive vehicles, ham radio or CB radio groups, people with walkie talkies, and facilities to use as a search center in Grand Forks, as well as food and beverages for volunteers.
For more information, contact Texas EquuSearch at (877) 270-9500, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Turcotte family at email@example.com.
People with information about Turcotte's disappearance are asked to call the Wolf Point Police Department at (406) 653-1852; the Grand Forks Police Department at (701) 787-8000; or Texas EquuSearch at (281) 309-9500.