Police tactics questioned in search for missing man

2013-09-02T00:00:00Z 2013-09-03T00:05:05Z Police tactics questioned in search for missing manLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

HOBART | Paul Laughead said he appreciates the efforts of everyone who searched for his missing grandfather last week.

But the 30-year-old Osceola, Ind., man questions why police couldn't find his grandfather, 68-year-old Edward Morillon. Instead, it was Laughead who found his grandfather dead on the ground 28 hours after he went missing from his home.

"They were very adamant about letting us know that with cases like this, people are generally found within a 300-yard radius of the home," Laughead said. "To find him within 150 yards of the home just doesn't seem right."

Morillon, of the 3800 block of E. 69th Avenue, was pronounced dead at 4:46 p.m. Tuesday, the Lake County Coroner's office said. The cause of death was listed as a suicide.

Morillon crawled out of a window in an unlocked bathroom at his home about noon Monday. Police said he did not take any personal affects with him, they did not believe he was wearing shoes and were told he may have had a hard time walking.

The pathology portion of the coroner's report indicates Morillon was clinically depressed and was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

The autopsy revealed Morillon had been dead for more than 24 hours when his grandson found his body.

"I have to assume that Mr. Morillon's last rational thoughts were he wanted to go somewhere where he would not be found," Hobart Police Chief Rich Zormier said. "Of course, I wish we would have found him. I wish I would have found him. It just didn't turn out that way."

Laughead said nearly 40 family members gathered at his grandparents' home ready to assist in the search Monday but "felt held back by police."

"It almost felt like we waited around for awhile and wasted time," Laughead said.

A police K-9 alerted on the woods to the south of Morillon's home, which is where crews concentrated their search Monday.

Zormier said Hobart police sent a message via Blackboard Connect to every resident in the city Monday notifying them of Morillon's disappearance, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.

Hobart city workers, family members, volunteers and K-9s searched on the ground until dusk. The Lake County Sheriff's Department helicopter searched overhead Monday, but infrared technology was hampered by the heavily wooded area and warm temperatures, police said.

Crews resumed the search Tuesday. Hobart police called Indiana State Police at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday -- more than 27 hours after Morillon's disappearance -- to say they may be requesting a regional Silver Alert for Morillon, according to Sgt. Ann Wojas of the Indiana State Police.

Silver alerts are issued through state police at the request of local law enforcement agencies for missing people meeting certain criteria, including being a high risk missing person and having a mental impairment.

When Hobart police sent an alert to the press -- 24 hours after Morillon went missing -- asking for help in getting the word out about Morillon's disappearance, they listed him as a high-risk missing person and said he had "numerous medical issues and a diminished mental capacity."

Zormier said he did not expand the message of Morillon's disappearance beyond the city initially. 

"Honestly, we thought he was right there."

Laughead said he was shocked to find his grandfather where he did.

"If you saw what it looked like, it wasn't like he was inside a hole," Laughead said. "It was a little wooded."

Zormier said search crews checked the perimeter of the area where Morillon was discovered, but not in a formal grid check, holding hands in a line, searching every section of what he described as an area thick with thorn bushes.

"Hindsight being 20/20, I regret not having done that because we would have saved the family the grief," Zormier said. "At no point did we take any of this lightly."

Still, Laughead can't help but wonder if things could have been done differently by police.

"I appreciate the effort that the cops put forward, but it seems they may have dropped the ball on some things," Laughead said.

"I don't know if it would have mattered, but you have to hold out that hope."

Zormier has questions, too.

"I'm always going to wonder why we weren't the ones to find him instead of (Laughead)," he said.

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