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Vigilante group searching for missing Missouri boy irritate landowners and authorities

UPDATE 3/10/16 -Remains found near Dry Fork Creek have been confirmed by authorities to belong to Jonathan Shay.  Officials said they do not suspect any foul play.

UPDATE 2/22/16 –  Police were called to Dry Fork Creek on Sunday where human remains were found.  A tennis shoe found with the remains is believed to be a match to Jonathan Shay.  Dental records will be used to make positive identification and DNA, according to Fox 2 Now.

UPDATE:  9/6/15 – A new search for Jonathan Shay will be done this Monday. Volunteers are gathering Monday, Labor Day, in the St. James City Park to help look for him.

Original Story: 
Well-meaning volunteers who are showing up to help search for a missing 13-year-old boy from St. James, Mo. are running into criticism for law enforcement and anger from property owners.


Untrained and enthusiastic volunteers are walking through heavily wooded areas searching for Jonathan Shay who has been missing since July 9.  During their search they have left fences open and have even cut down fences in order to search.

“Gates have been left open, cows have been let out of farms, fences have been cut,” said Captain Rick Hope with the Phelps County Sheriff’s Dept.

As a result, landowners are now marking off the boundaries with purple paint and not allowing any searches to go on their property.

Shay left his grandmother’s home on 10000 block of County Road 3470 on July 9 with his  cousin, Xavier Baylor, 11.  Baylor was found the following day near a creek, but Shay is still missing.  KFOR news reports that Shay has autism and he taught himself survival skills.

The weather has been so hot many searchers have started looking in the evenings and Captain Rick Hope has warned them that it is dangerous because of the terrain.

“We recommend that they not search during the night time hours,” Hope told KSDK news.  “It’s just too dangerous.”


Hope stated that the land owners have promised to search their own land, and the authorities have used thermal imaging cameras and night-vision goggles to search for Shay.

Regardless of Hopes warning, volunteers are still showing up to search.  Many are finding out about the search on social media and if they are in a nearby town, they are driving to the location to help.

“We went down last night to the caves by the cemetery,” said one searcher.

Posted on the Bring Jonathan Shay home Facebook page:

“Jonathan Shay has not been found yet. His mother is following the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department’s request that all volunteers stay away until Saturday so they may continue their efforts to find him without interference. There isn’t much the volunteers can do at this time but the family wants everyone to know that they appreciate everyone’s efforts thus far and hope that when it’s clear to come back that everyone will! They will still need your help. Flyers will be distributed this weekend and we ask that everyone post them wherever they can. Please continue to look for him. We pray that he will come out of the woods on his own but the Sheriff’s Dept. and all other law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can right now. Please pray for a safe return for Jonathan.”

Even Jonathan’s mother, Melissa is asking the searchers to stop till Saturday.

“…we have requests for everyone to stay away until Saturday. There is reason 2 believe he might come out enough for Law enforcement 2 flush him out, or if he believes it’s not a game, he might even come home. Much thanks.”

With donations from the public and Walmart in Rolla of water and bug spray, and the growing number of shares on social media of Shay’s disappearance more searchers are showing up to help.  It is unknown at this time if searchers have stopped looking as requested.

Regardless, suggestions on how to find Shay are still being posted. Leanna Conner, on the Search for Jonathan Shay Facebook page posted, “I was talking with his moms friend and suggested a few things. How about blaring his favorite song on speakers or singing it over a megaphone or whatever its called. Does he know marco polo? And the angrybirds music is a smart idea! Or minecraft music! Or talk about pokemon or pikachu or minecraft. I have a 12 year old and thats what he likes. Does he have a favorite sport? Im sure ppl will do wgat they can to get you the appropriate music.”

Conner also suggested getting an ice cream truck to go up down the road with music playing.

If you see Shay, please contact 1-800-THE-LOST.

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