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Clues sparse in Dundee disappearance

Marcus Larson / News-Register<br><b>
Kallen Huston speaks Tuesday at a press conference about the disappearance of his wife, Jennifer.</b>
Marcus Larson / News-Register
Kallen Huston speaks Tuesday at a press conference about the disappearance of his wife, Jennifer.

Aug 1, 2014


By Paul Daquilante
Of the News-Register


UPDATE / Monday, Aug. 4,  1 p.m.:

Investigators are checking surveillance video from the Washington state ferry system to see if they can confirm a report that Huston was spotted Friday on the ferry out of Anacortes to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.

A couple who notified deputies told KPTV they saw a woman matching Huston's description driving a car that matched Huston's car, including a cracked windshield.

San Juan County Undersheriff Bruce Distler says the tip is worth checking out.

— — —

UPDATE / Friday, Aug. 4,  4 p.m.:

Capt. Tim Svenson of the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office said the agency will not continue to search in an "organized" fashion for Jennifer Huston, the missing 38-year-old Dundee woman.

Svenson emphasized that deputies on routine patrol will continue to look for any signs of Huston and/or her vehicle.

— — —

DUNDEE — Desperate for new angles to explore in the mysterious disappearance of 38-year-old Dundee mother Jennifer Huston, authorities opened a new front in their search effort Thursday afternoon — the San Juan Islands in northern Washington.

Noting she grew up in Gig Harbor, regarded the San Juans as a favorite getaway, and was headed north went her cell phone went dead at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, July 24, they forwarded a bulletin on her to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office. 

Since they have no evidence a crime was committed, they have no standing to search her medical and phone records, even though her husband has signed off on that. That hampers their efforts to develop fresh leads, so they have few new avenues they can pursue.

Huston left to run some errands, leaving her two young boys home with her husband of almost 10 years, and never returned. When her cell phone went dead following routine stops at a gas station, ATM and drug store, it only added to the mystery.

Intense searches by air along the Willamette River and rural Yamhill County roads Wednesday yielded no new clues.

The lead agency, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, said the effort was organized by the family. They said helicopters based at the Hillsboro Airport took part.

Meanwhile, the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office searched the Willamette River from Dayton to Wilsonville, looking for places where her Lexus SUV, Oregon license plate WHX-011, could have gone into the water. And law enforcement personnel were joined by friends and relatives in searching Bald Peak, Trask Mountain and the Gaston area.

Authorities have asked law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for Huston, or her vehicle, in Alaska, California and Idaho as well as Oregon and Washington. The ferries serving the San Juan Islands lack automated license plate readers, but such devices are being used in other locales to supplement the human eye.

Additional searches were planned today, including an aerial search of the western and central parts of Yamhill County.

Huston was reported missing about 5:30 a.m. Friday — about 12 hours after she left home — by her husband, Kallen. Close relatives always get a good look, but authorities said he had been fully cooperative and had passed a polygraph test.

Video surveillance captured her at three Newberg locations — a bank ATM where she drew out "less than $100," a Circle K where she gassed up and a Rite Aid where she purchased Gatorade, trail mix and a mile, over-the-counter sleeping aid. She made the stops in relatively quick succession and appeared to be alone.

Authorities said her phone then went dead, or was turned off. They said there had been no record of bank, phone or credit card activity since, let alone sightings of her or her car, despite intense publicity through traditional media, social media and law enforcement channels.

They estimated the range of her vehicle on a full tank of gas at 300 to 350 miles. They were using that as a rough guide to search efforts.

Police said her car was dark green in color. They said it featured a Yakima sky rank up top and a U-shaped crack in the passenger side of the windshield.

They described her as a 5-foot-7 woman of average build, with blonde shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. They said she was wearing black-and-pink shoes and black yoga pants when she left home.

Capt. Jeff Kosmicki said the Newberg-Dundee police had five detectives working the case, but had turned up no evidence of foul play so far. He said they are treating her disappearance as a "missing and endangered" case at this point.

“Obviously, her leaving and not contacting anybody is suspicious in that regard," he said. "But we’re keeping all of our options open.

"The detectives have been on this from the beginning. They spent Saturday and Sunday developing timelines, getting to know her habits.

Kosmicki said her husband had been helping them every step of the way.

"Kallen has been completely forthcoming," he said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do."

He also said, "We have interviewed the 6-year-old child" — the elder of the two.

Members of the extended family have been doing their part by mounting an extensive social media campaign. They established a "Find Jennifer Huston" Facebook page that had amassed more than 41,000 likes by Thursday morning.

Kallen Huston was joined by other members of the family — including Jennifer's parents, who live in Clark County, Washington — at a press briefing earlier this week. He made a statement and took a few questions.

He acknowledged, "We still have a lot of ties to Gig Harbor. She still has friends that live there, and parents of friends who live there.

But he said, "We have friends everywhere — in Texas, in Japan, in Malaysia."

He said, "This is totally unlike her. She's a devoted mother. She's a good person. I think all of our friends would agree about that.

"We have a good, solid relationship. We're close to celebrating 10-year wedding anniversary, and we've know each other 17 years."

She had been experiencing headaches for about three days prior to her disappearance, but had not begun taking any medication or scheduled any doctor's appointments in response.

Any tips or leads should be referred to lead Detective Ryan Simmons at 503-554-8954 or ryan.simmons@newbergoregon.gov. The Newberg-Dundee Communications Center can be reached by dialing 911 in an emergency or 503-583-8321 otherwise.

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