The Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office will continue a scaled-back search today for 24-year-old Marquita Medrano, one of two horseback riders reported missing late Monday afternoon. The body of the other rider, 6-year-old Emily Purcell, was found by members of a hastily-formed search team around 8:40 pm Monday evening, about 20 minutes after the horse the two had been riding together was discovered standing in the river a short distance from the US 60/83 bridge north of Canadian.
Sheriff Morse Burroughs reported yesterday evening that since Monday, there had been no new discoveries, despite the tireless efforts for the last three days of 40-50 search team members on foot, on horseback, on shallow boats and in the air. He said the search will be scaled back for now to allow the Canadian River—which reached flood stages Monday morning—time to recede.
Burroughs said the search had spanned an area from west of the Canadian River Bridge all the way to the edge of Oklahoma. “That area has been searched at least five times by law enforcement and civilians, and we have found nothing,” he said. “We have searched those waters up and down using [tracking] dogs and found nothing.”
“We are scaling back,” Sheriff Burroughs told The Record, “but we are not stopping.”
Burroughs said that yesterday the river changed hourly, as the flood waters receded. Searchers hope to cover the same area again as the area dries and reveals new terrain.
While the sheriff said he had released Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel and DPS aircraft, he noted that they are only a phone call away, and that he may request their return. The staging area at Abraham Gardens has been relocated back to the Sheriff’s Office as the search resumes today.
“We still have people floating, driving and walking the river,” Sheriff Burroughs said, adding that the tracking dogs would be employed in the continuing search, as well.
“It’s frustrating, and honestly I feel flat defeated,” he said, the exhaustion in his voice almost palpable. “My goal is to resolve this for the family. We haven’t, and that’s really frustrating for me.”
Meanwhile, plans for Emily Purcell’s funeral have been on hold while the search continued, in hope that Medrano would be found. Emily would have celebrated her seventh birthday on the Fourth of July.
Read more in this week’s e-edition.