True Robert and Charlene Spierer listen as a public search is organized for their daughter Lauren Spierer. Lauren was reportedly last seen at 4:30 a.m. the morning of June 3 walking south from 11th Street and College Avenue in Bloomington. Alex Farris
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2011.06.20
You probably know everything possible already about the search for Lauren Spierer, the IU student and Smallwood Plaza apartments resident who went missing in the early morning of June 3. As such, this is not meant as any sort of news report. (My newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, can do better than I can here.) Just like my previous posts on this personal blog, it's a description of my experience with the story, one that has regrettably turned from an emotional roller coaster to a routine. (A heavily-covered routine that still needs to be covered, but a routine nonetheless.)

IDS reporter CJ Lotz and I, as well as freelancer Peter Stevenson, went on the first public search for Lauren on June 5. There, at the front door of Smallwood Plaza, we met her parents, Robert and Charlene, who had flown from New York to Indianapolis over the weekend. The parents, about 15 volunteers, and we members of the media (including a Fox 59 cameraman) drove to Hoosier National Forest to search.


Robert and Charlene Spierer listen as a public search is organized for their daughter Lauren Spierer. Lauren was reportedly last seen at 4:30 a.m. the morning of June 3 walking south from 11th Street and College Avenue in Bloomington.


Robert Spierer points out locations on a map among volunteers near the Paynetown State Recreation Area.


Robert Spierer talks with a volunteer at the entrance to Maumee Boy Scout Camp. The search party that the Spierers led spread information to campers along the roads of the Hoosier National Forest and looked in vacant campsites.


We dedicated half of the next day's front page to the story and photos. Incidentally, I had covered the Bloomington Craft Beer Festival with CJ on Saturday, so we had already formed a bit of a reporting team.

Three public searches were organized the next day through Rabbi Sue Silberberg and the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center. About 20 people attended the 10 a.m. search, about 100 helped at 1 p.m., and more than 400 attended the evening search at 5:30. Tom Crean helped, the women's basketball and volleyball teams helped, and I saw at least 10 friends help. The number of volunteers would only grow as the week passed.


Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center, directs searchers before the 10 a.m. public search June 6 outside Smallwood Plaza. The IU Hillel Center website posted information on search times and other ways to help, and Hillel members were heavily involved in organizing the first public searches.


Bloomington Police Department Lt. Scott Oldham gives instructions to volunteers before the 5:30 p.m. search for Lauren Spierer on June 6. By the evening, IU athletic teams, coaches, faculty and students were involved in searches. By the 5:30 search, which nearly 450 people attended, the BPD became more involved in organizing the searches.

John Summerlot points search volunteers toward Red Cross workers before a search June 9 outside Smallwood Plaza. Summerlot said search organizations complimented the volunteer search system and that they were doing what the professional teams would have done. "We feel pretty good for being a group of volunteers who don't do this by trade," he said.

The daily press briefings started the next day at 11 a.m. Every Indianapolis broadcast station was there, and the media crowd would eventually include radio stations, Evansville and New York TV stations, The Today Show, Good Morning America and the Associated Press. Every day (you can hear for yourself), the Bloomington Police Department and the family would thank us for covering the story and keeping it alive, even when there was little news to report.


Charlene Spierer looks down as her husband, Robert, speaks to local and national media during the first press briefing on the search for their daughter Lauren on June 7 at BPD headquarters.


BPD Capt. Joe Qualters takes a question from the media during a press briefing June 11 at BPD headquarters.. Lt of Detectives Bill Parker, who leads the investigation, led the briefings while Capt. Qualters was on vacation. Capt. Qualters returned June 10 and has led each subsequent briefing.


Robert and Charlene Spierer look as Capt. Joe Qualters briefs the media June 15.

CJ knew a Smallwood resident, so when the BPD served a search warrant on June 8 in the apartment complex's lobby, we were there quickly. I pushed my camera against the glass and saw as an officer beat open a door with a battering ram. They would recover three computer towers and two CD cases from the mail room and security room.

(Later, a p.r. officer for Smallwood said BPD called the manager and the manager promised he would open the doors for police in 10 minutes. The police waited only five minutes before they beat the door open.)


A BPD officer uses a battering ram to knock open a door in service of a search warrant June 8 in the lobby of Smallwood Plaza.


A BPD officer hands off a computer tower during service of a search warrant. BPD took photos of the evidence obtained and moved the evidence between the mail room and the security room.


A BPD officer pulls a cart carrying three computer towers and two CD cases out of Smallwood Plaza. BPD said that, despite having some access to Smallwood's camera footage, they wanted to be sure that they had possession of it.

In an effort to get fresh photos every day, I went on at least one search per day during the first week. That brought me to the IU campus, the south side of town (on video), Griffy Lake and the area around the Griffy dam, the latter with Army ROTC.


Volunteers look inside a bag of clothes found June 6 in downtown Bloomington. The bag contained a gray T-shirt and blue jeans, clothes that Lauren Spierer did not wear on the night of June 2.


Lt. Col. Mike Ogden of IU ROTC puts water on his head to cool himself during his team's search for Lauren Spierer on June 8 near the dam on Griffy Reservoir. Temperatures reached about 96 degrees with about 45% humidity during the fifth day of searches for the missing IU student.


Second lieutenant Matt Teatreau wipes his mouth as he stands in a marshy field during his team's search for Lauren Spierer. Lt. Col. Ogden and Lt. Col. Ralph Vargas, who was also on the search, said Robert and Charlene Spierer sometimes searched with ROTC during the first week of searches. They said the parents gave them a hug every time and thanked them for everything they had done.


Members of the Price family paddle a canoe along the shore of Griffy Lake on a search for Lauren Spierer on June 9. (Taken from phone and tweeted.)

When there wasn't any new news at the press briefings over the weekend of June 11, some started to worry that the media, and therefore the exposure that could compel someone to talk, would go away. That changed Wednesday. At the briefing, BPD released a photo of Lauren at Smallwood before going out and two video grabs of a white truck that was seen twice at 10th and Morton streets at about the time Lauren went missing.


Capt. Qualters points out a white truck that drove near 10th and Morton streets at about 4:15 a.m. June 3 as Charlene Spierer looks during a briefing June 15. Once the owner of the truck was identified, the driver cooperated with police, showed them his route and was cleared of any involvement in Lauren's disappearance.


Robert Spierer holds up a video grab of his daughter Lauren as she left Smallwood Plaza on June 2 during a briefing June 15. As Father's Day approached, the parents asked for Lauren to come back as a gift for that day.

At today's briefing, Capt. Qualters said the truck was no longer suspected. (story) After a fresh mound of earth found at a search yesterday turned up nothing (my brief with photos), the truck's non-involvement made two straight leads that did not produce any clues or conclusion.

There was some heartening news today, though: People still continue to volunteer, even over a rainy Father's Day weekend. As long as there are still searches (volunteer or professional), the IDS will continue to report on this story. The paper will stay on the case not only because it's a story that needs to be told, but also because Lauren is a student, and the IDS is a newspaper run by her fellow students. I'll stay on it, too, recording every briefing, following a few searches, and watching for breaking news.

(View the IDS Lauren Spierer page here. While the Lauren Spierer case won't always remain the big news of the day, the page will stay linked at the top of idsnews.com.)

(For up-to-date information through Twitter, follow @NewsOnLaurenS (a social media expert with her own story) and @idsnews.)

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