When Ken McCormick heard that police on Wednesday had asked the public to help them find Lindsey Piccone, 21, who went missing from her Bensalem home six weeks ago, he knew he would join Thursday’s search at Tyler State Park in Newtown.
Ken McCormick knows what it’s like to have a child go missing.
It happened to him in 2012, when his grown son disappeared after a night socializing with friends.
“It’s awful, awful,” said McCormick, 69, of Yardley. “You can’t sit still. The not-knowing makes you feel so helpless.”
So when he heard that police on Wednesday had asked the public to help them find Lindsey Piccone, 21, who went missing from her Bensalem home six weeks ago, he knew he would join Thursday’s search at Tyler State Park in Newtown, where Piccone’s car was found in a parking lot. And when authorities disinvited the public from their search Thursday morning, worried about liability if civilian searchers had any mishaps, McCormick and a diehard group of about 15 others decided to press forward with an unofficial search anyway, determined to help police get answers and Piccone’s family to find closure.
“It could be my daughter or my grandchildren. It’s everybody’s duty to help,” said Tom Mills, 70, of Yardley, a retired pilot and ex-Marine who served three tours in Vietnam and has participated in mountain rescues out west.
Tom Lyons, 63, of Levittown, agreed: “I can’t imagine what her parents are enduring. It’s hard enough to lose someone when they die. But to have it end with a thousand questions and no answers, it tears you apart. My best friend of almost 50 years passed away the beginning of October. At least I know what happened to him. Her loved ones don’t know, and if I can do anything to help them, I will.”
‘Hopefully they’re in a state of shock.’
Since Piccone was last seen Sept. 6, her family found a “very vague” note that “implied a permanent goodbye, but it wasn’t clear what she meant by that, if she wanted to harm herself or if she was running away,” her cousin Heather Andrews said in a video posted Tuesday to Bucks County News Feed’s Facebook page.
“Up until that point that she left that note and left, everything was seemingly normal in her life,” Andrews added, saying Piccone was a recent college student who worked at daycare and adored children.
McCormick hopes Piccone has just run off to reinvent herself somewhere else. He hopes her family never gets the bad news he did, when searchers found his 35-year-old son dead in Glen Wild Lake in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, four days after he’d disappeared. Somehow, as he drove his small boat home after hanging out with neighbors one chilly night in April 2012, he’d fallen into the water and succumbed to hypothermia, McCormick said.
“Hopefully they’re in a state of shock. It’s the only way your mind can handle it, is being in shock,” McCormick said.
As officers from the Bensalem and Newtown police departments and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources scoured parts of the Tyler State Park on Thursday, McCormick and other citizen searchers hunted the woods around the parking lot where Piccone’s car was found.
It’s a surreal thing to search for a missing woman while other park visitors — mothers pushing babies in strollers, men fishing, children laughing at the playground, business executives strolling during their lunch breaks — enjoy the park, unaware.
Searchers peered into culverts and hollowed trees, poked soft dirt looking for anything hastily buried, lifted rocks, and squinted into the Neshaminy Creek, looking for clues or Piccone herself. Every piece of trash was considered, and every overgrown gully, examined. Distant barking prompted a few to pause, as they wondered whether police K9s had found something.
The searchers — most of them men, most of them retirees — tried to think like a desperate young woman as they imagined where she might have gone.
Others took a different tack. “Think like a criminal. Where would a criminal have put her?” said Linda Morgan, 61, of Pipersville.
The search — by both police and the citizens — ended Thursday with no more clarity on Piccone’s whereabouts.
But many searchers remained undeterred.
Jennifer Eberhard has two children close to Piccone’s age, and Thursday was one of several times she has visited Tyler State Park since Piccone disappeared to hunt for her.
“I just can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” said Eberhard, 44, of Churchville.
“If that was me, I’d hope people would be out looking. If she’s in here, she should be found. I can do the distance, I can walk, so I might as well do something that holds meaning.”
Thursday’s search was one of several that authorities, including police K9s, already have done.
As for the next step in the investigation, “we’ll just keep it active,” Bensalem Lt. William McVey said. “We’re actively working on the case, just following up whatever we can — we have no indication of foul play at this time. But we don’t know if she did just run off or harmed herself. We’re looking at all angles.”
Piccone is 5-foot-3 and 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black tank top. Tipsters are asked to call Bensalem police at (215) 633-3719. A $10,000 reward is offered for tips that help find her.