It’s been almost two weeks since Barbara Thomason walked away from Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center, and friends and family members haven’t heard from her since.
Officials at the Princeton Police Department and Southern Highlands spent part of the day Wednesday in Roanoke, Va., where reports indicated a woman matching the description of the 63-year-old was reported at a hospital.
Unfortunately, Princeton Police Department Det. D.B. Whited reported Thursday that the trip was unsuccessful.
“It didn’t pan out. It ended up not being her,” he said. “Right now, we’re still following up on leads ... We’re still receiving tips that people are seeing someone that resembles her in Bluefield, and we’re following up on all of them.”
Thomason, who as been a Southern Highlands Adult Day Services client for more than 20 years, left the community mental health center at approximately 11:10 a.m., Monday, Sept. 26, while she was performing her assigned duties for the day of tidying up the area around Southern Highlands.
Soon after, Southern Highlands Director Judy Akers said witnesses spotted Thomason at or near Princeton Community Hospital. That was the last confirmed sighting of the gray-haired woman.
“She’s very friendly, never meets a stranger,” Akers said, describing Thomason’s personality just before a prayer vigil at Southern Highlands Sept. 30. “She likes to talk and enjoys coming to the day program.”
Akers said the vigil was organized to unite the community in prayer for Thomason’s safe return and to continue getting the word out about her absence.
Southern Highlands’ Kenny Franklin thanked the Princeton Police Department, Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, all local fire departments, Princeton Rescue Squad, local news media and Southern Highlands employees, friends and supporters for their assistance in the search that is still ongoing for Thomason.
In addition, Southern Highlands officials expressed their appreciation to Alex’s Place, Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton Health and Fitness Center, Sheetz, Shell, and others for help in reviewing surveillance tapes in a bid to determine Thomason’s path once she left Southern Highlands.
“Barbara is truly missed and loved by anyone who knows her,” Franklin said.
As the well-wishers, friends and searchers who gathered for the vigil fought Friday’s brisk winds in an attempt to keep their candles lit, many wore blue ribbons of remembrance and embraced each other to offer comfort.
“She’s really part of our family,” Akers said.
Thomason is 63 years old and stands 5 feet, 2 inches tall, with short, gray hair. She was last seen wearing a Virginia Tech T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers and a blue jacket.
Anyone who has seen Thomason or has any information that might help in identifying her location is asked to contact Southern Highlands at 304-425-9541, Princeton Police Department at 304-487-5000, a local police agency or simply dial 911.