Search continues for missing NWI doctor

2011-03-28T17:30:00Z 2011-03-29T12:16:31Z Search continues for missing NWI doctorBy Vanessa Renderman and Lauri Keagle Times Staff Writers

Investigators are following up on tips as they continue to search for a Munster ophthalmologist who went missing early last week.

"We're not ruling out anything," Munster Police Chief Steve Scheckel said.

Authorities said 70-year-old Dr. Promila Mehta-Paul, who has a practice at 8219 Kennedy Ave. in Highland, didn't show up for hospital rounds a week ago.

By Wednesday morning, calls flooded into Munster and Highland police from co-workers and friends. She last was seen the evening of March 21, Scheckel said.

Police searched her home, office and subdivision as well as railroad tracks along 45th Avenue, nearby wooded areas and the creek that runs behind the property line of her Munster home. The investigation of her home revealed she had not been there for several days. Her home is near Twin Creek Park, which connects via pedestrian bridge to White Oak Park.

Her vehicle, a 2001 gold Toyota Rav4, is missing. It has an Indiana plate, number DW2031. Finding the vehicle would be a big break in the case, Scheckel said.

There has been no activity on her credit cards, and she's not answering her phone.

Scheckel said federal authorities, including border patrol and the Transportation Security Administration, have been alerted that she is missing. It is possible she left the area without telling anyone, but it is not probable, given her history, he said.

"It's out of character for her to just disappear," he said. "She wasn't associated with any criminal activity, so that's why it's so baffling to us."

She exhibited no signs of depression or health problems, such as early-onset Alzheimer's disease, he said.

A surveillance camera caught footage of the doctor about 5 p.m., making a deposit at a Highland bank, he said.

Mehta-Paul has three sons, one of whom was staying with her on a visit from California. Police have spoken to all three sons and, on Monday, were in the process of interviewing them again, as well as employees of her Highland practice, Scheckel said.

She did not notify her staff that she would not be at work March 22, police said, and she had appointments scheduled.

"It's unusual for her not to say anything," Josefina Rodriguez, a receptionist at Mehta-Paul's office, said Monday morning.

Rodriguez sat at the front desk in the dark, quiet office Monday. She described the doctor as, "really, really nice," saying she plans to distribute missing person fliers in Highland and Munster to aid in the search.

"We just want her back safe and sound," Rodriguez said.

Mehta-Paul is a white woman of Indian descent. She is about 5 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs about 130 pounds, has brown eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information about where Mehta-Paul is or anyone who may have seen her since March 21 is asked to call the Munster Police Department at (219) 836-6600 or the Highland Police Department at (219) 838-3181.

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