NEWTON, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — The investigation into the disappearance of a Newton woman last seen in July 2021 is continuing, even if leads are getting fewer as time goes on.
Bethany Bower, a 38-year-old woman from Newton, was last seen on July 28, 2021. Bower was reported missing on July 31, 2021.
Barb Lingafelter is Bethany’s sister and says that as time goes on, the frustration over the situation mounts.
“I’m very frustrated, she’s been missing for a year and a half now, and it’s time for her to be found and come home,” Lingafelter said.
While some missing persons end up being people who leave home and don’t wish to be found, investigators say the items left behind in Bower’s case lend credence to the idea that she wasn’t intending to disappear. A handbag containing her phone, credit cards, clothing, and other items were left behind at her residence as well as her pet dog.
“It’s most frustrating, because someone knows what she did the last night she was here, who she was with, but no one has come forward with that information,” Lingafelter said.
When asked if leaving for a time was something Bower did in the past, her sister said she would go on a trip or go somewhere for a few days, but not without alerting her sister to where she would be and for how long.
The sisters lived together around the time of the disappearance and had been working together to care for a relative at a second home. Lingafelter said the night Bower disappeared she had been staying at the relative’s home.
While Lingafelter is frustrated, she said she wants the community to understand how involved the police have been in the investigation.
“I want people to know that the police are very involved, and they keep us in the loop,” Lingafelter said. “The chief calls me twice a week, sometimes more, with updates about what’s being done or tips they’ve received.”
She added whenever police have searched an area, she’s always been given a heads-up ahead of time.
“We’ve done multiple searches, some larger than others, sometimes with cadaver dogs,” Newton Police Chief Riley Britton said. In total 10 searches have been done involving cadaver dogs around the area with other agencies assisting in the search. Britton also noted that they’ve used drone flyovers to search some areas as well and have done a search of the Embarras River nearby.
Britton noted there was a large community search held in the fall of 2021 as well.
When asked about if this case was a cold case, Britton stated that the term cold case isn’t a specific official distinction, but a phrase used when there are no more leads, which he stated is not the case with this situation.
Lingafelter added she’s very appreciative of the community as a whole and the way they’ve pulled together, whether that be assisting in searches, providing tips, or just sharing missing posters on social media.
“I worry this could turn into a cold case, I asked the chief, he said it’s not a cold case, but an active investigation,” Lingafelter said. “But it’s just been so long that I worry there’s not many tips left to follow.”
Bethany Bower is 5’8″, weighs approximately 150 pounds, has green eyes and brown hair. She also has a noticeable scar on her right shoulder. Lingafelter notes when Bower disappeared she had shorter hair at the time due to being involved in a house fire in 2020. Anyone with information related to her disappearance or current location is asked to call the Newton Police Department at 618-783-8478.