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Sheriff provides an update on the search for missing Great Falls woman

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Posted at 1:55 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 15:55:18-05

The search for Amy Harding-Permann is now in its fourth week in Great Falls. Harding, 34 years old, was last seen leaving her residence at 343 Flood Road on foot at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 26th. Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said the next day that Amy reportedly got into an argument with her boyfriend John VanGilder at the residence. She then allegedly assaulted him before leaving the house and headed in the direction of the Missouri River, which is very close to the house.

Agencies involved in the search so far include the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Great Falls Police Department, Malmstrom Air Force Base, and rural fire departments. Searchers have been looking on the ground, in the river, and in the air with a helicopter and drone. Search dogs have also been used. On January 29, about 175 people responded to a call for volunteers to help search a wide area around the house.

We talked with Sheriff Slaughter on Wednesday about the case; here is what he told us:

  • We are currently at this point in time we are going through multiple leads through our investigation. I’m not going to discuss those leads, but yes, we have been sifting through multiple leads and we will be ramping up the search again this weekend based upon those leads we’ve been working on.
  • It would be irresponsible at this point in time to have any of those leads go “cold” and the reason being is we haven't found Amy yet. One of the biggest mistakes we could make as investigators is to start ruling things out when we actually haven't found her.
  • I have given direction to all the investigators we have involved in this, that everything is still a possibility. All the leads are still open and to investigate those leads thoroughly.
  • We are talking to people that aren't local because there are people that are connected to her and other people involved in the investigation that aren’t local.
  • We will be doing a helicopter search I believe Saturday or Sunday and we have some more follow-up searches this weekend. It will be a pretty intense weekend with searches. Part of it is the weather and part of it is also when we learn about the information then we can react on it. The weather does play a factor in what we do, that is for sure.
  • There’s a massive amount of information that we’re taking in. We are then having to analyze all of that. And then it is creating leads. And leads are coming up in this investigation daily or hourly as far as that goes.
  • Unfortunately, and I’ll reiterate this, we cant really close any of those leads until we find Amy.
  • Missing people have been found 20 years later alive and well, so I don’t speculate on that, I think it’s natural for the public to always speculate the worst if they can't locate someone quickly.
  • What can happen is you don't have any leads. Which in this three week period of time you guys have seen us ramp up, and slow down, and ramp up and slow down. Well, we ramp up based on the information that we have so that we can search correctly.
  • We are going to search diligently, we’re going to follow leads diligently, we’re going to investigate. And then there might come a period of time where we don't have the leads that we had, or we’re waiting on more information to come from, say, a crime lab or a cell phone, or what have you. There’s lots of different avenues that we could get information. Sometimes we are in a waiting period and sometimes we don't have any more leads. Then you get leads and you ramp up again. So the reality of that is you never really are going to give up on it, and just say, 'Oh, we’re done.' We’re not going to do that. The truth of the matter is only really Amy knows where Amy is at this point.

If you have any information about Amy’s whereabouts, you are asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 406-454-6979.

J