Updated [4:20 p.m. Sept. 10]:
Texas EquuSearch director Tim Miller announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the use of a drone in the search for Christina Morris.
The drone is en route from Austin, and is scheduled to be launched tomorrow morning, weather permitting.
Storms are expected in the area tonight through Friday, which Miller said may hamper search efforts.
The search for Christina Morris intensified this week as Texas EquuSearch arrived in town Monday to aid in the search for the missing 23-year-old who was last seen around 4 a.m. Aug. 30 in a parking garage at The Shops at Legacy.
The nonprofit organization, which has aided law enforcement and families in the search for missing people since 2000, spent Monday catching up on the investigation, mapping out the area and driving around to gain familiarity.
“We don’t have any evidence of foul play and we don’t have any evidence that she left on her own,” said Tim Miller, founder and director of TexasEquuSearch. “We’ve got one fact – she’s missing. We did a lot of driving and a lot of reconnaissance and we’re holding onto the hope that she is alive out there somewhere, but in the case something else happened I think we’ve got some areas of interest that we want to search.”
While specific locations were not made public, Miller said isolated places that are easy to pull in at night, dump something and get out quickly are the first target.
“We know it’s a process of elimination and we’re kind of making our own start,” he said. “We’re all working together for one reason, and that’s to bring her back safely. We do believe in miracles, but we’re not going to sugar coat it. It doesn’t look good after this amount of time.”
Despite the grim outlook, Jonni McElroy, Morris’ mother, is not giving up hope that her daughter will be found safe.
“I’m pretty drained, pretty exhausted, but still very determined,” McElroy said. “… I’ve always had a high faith in God, and he’s definitely working right now. I truly believe in my heart that the Plano Police Department, the search team, everybody – they’re finding pieces that are coming together … I know they’re working hard and doing everything they can. I feel at ease. … I feel blessed. I know in my heart they’ll find her.”
McElroy did her best to put rumors to rest, insisting that Morris’ boyfriend has been nothing but cooperative in light of his girlfriend’s disappearance.
“He and his father went all the way up to Choctaw [Casino] and dropped her flyers everywhere – every truck stop, every restaurant, every convenience store – and they covered a lot of ground,” she said. “He feels like an idiot for waiting four days. It was a typical boyfriend/girlfriend fight, and he just really wishes he would have contacted us. He said he has to live with that for the rest of his life.
“I’m married, and in my relationships I’ve had fights with my husband or boyfriend where I’m like ‘I’m not going to talk to you.’ They’re in their 20s, they’re not mature and haven’t grown up like we have. … She’s known him since 6th grade. … The police have already had his phone and investigated his phone, and he cooperated in every way.”
Officer David Tilley, Plano PD spokesman, confirmed that the police have spoken to Morris’ boyfriend on numerous occasions and that he’s been cooperative.
While Texas EquuSearch and volunteers continue to search high and low for any sign of Morris, Plano PD is working diligently to follow up on tips they're receiving through Facebook and social media.
"We're going to continue following up on those tips, and the primary investigators are going to continue on with their in-depth investigation speaking to the people that were originally there," Tilley said. "[We're] going beyond the recent, going back a little further. Maybe someone had a beef with her awhile back. ... There's still a lot of area to cover. We have not, by any stretch of the imagination, reached a dead end."
Tilley said law enforcement agencies in Frisco, The Colony, Allen, McKinney and other local areas have been made aware of the investigation.
"We do have a good working relationship with the local agencies around here, but we don't know if a crime has been committed," he said. "They're assisting us in searching areas in their cities as well."
But as the search goes on, family members have been asked to hold down the fort at Legacy Church, which has become the Texas EquuSearch command center.
“Hopefully they don’t find anything bad, but they’d rather find it versus us, and I understand,” McElroy said. “Every time I look I’m praying that I do find something, but also that I don’t find something.”
And Miller knows exactly what Morris’ family is going through – he’s been through it himself.
“I didn’t start EquuSearch because I wanted to be a [hero],” he said. “My own daughter [Laura] disappeared and was gone 17 months. … Law enforcement said she was a runaway and we could get no help, and unfortunately her body was found 2 miles from my house in an abandoned oil field along with three other girls; two of them are still unidentified. I remember every minute of that 17 months and the loneliness and helplessness, and I made a promise to Laura and God that I’d never leave a family alone. But I want everyone to know this isn’t about Laura, this isn’t about Tim Miller – this is about Christina.”
Since its inception 14 years ago, Texas EquuSearch has worked more than 1,350 missing persons cases, with more than 300 persons found alive and 182 found deceased. The nonprofit has led searches in 38 states and eight countries and has worked high-profile investigations including those of Natalee Holloway and Caylee Anthony.
The search and recovery team uses resources such as horses, ATVs, drone airplanes, sonar equipment and ground penetration to aid in the search effort.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t have her located that’s probably good news because we know where she’s not,” Miller said. “As long as we know where she’s not at we hold onto that hope that she’s alive out there.”
When asked how long Texas EquuSearch plans to be in town, Miller said his team will stay as long as it takes to find Morris.
“I went to Aruba nine different times for Natalee Holloway,” he said. “Plano’s a lot closer to Houston than Aruba.”
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Plano PD at 972-424-5678.
For information on Texas EquuSearch or to donate to the search efforts, visit texasequusearch.org.
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