Event spotlights Renee Field disappearance

More than two dozen people showed up at Lowe’s in Zion Crossroads on Saturday (Sept. 6) for an event highlighting the mysterious disappearance of FluvannaField resident Renee Field.

The event was put on by Help Save the Next Girl, an organization founded by Dan and Gil Harrington in honor of their daughter Morgan Harrington, who was abducted and murdered in the Charlottesville area in 2009.

Lewis Field, who was the last to see his wife when she disappeared on July 2, attended the event along with several other family members.  Despite the fact that his wife has been missing for over two months, Lewis Field is thinking positive.  “I think she is [still alive],” he said.  “I know at this point it’s less likely, but at the same time, there’s been several cases where – for medical or whatever reason – they appear a while later.  So I’m still going with that.”

With that in mind, he and his wife’s father, Waverly Branch, went to Richmond a couple weeks ago to put flyers around the area.  Renee Field was familiar with the west end of Richmond, Lewis Field has said.  They’re also placing an ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he said, to try to “cover some more ground with people seeing her.”

Investigators continue their search, he said, by monitoring his wife’s accounts.  They also checked the JAUNT bus that occasionally runs out to the park and ride where her car was found, he said, looking for signs that she had ridden it.  But so far nothing has popped.

What would really help the case, Lewis Field said, is “if somebody, because of an event like this, suddenly remembers, ‘Hold it, you meant that red Forester.  Yeah, I happened to be there when I saw whatever happened.’  I mean, that’s basically it, I guess, until somebody who’s seen something recognizes that they need to say something.”

Taking a little time away from home wasn’t unusual for his wife, Lewis Field said, adding that once she stayed away for over six hours.  So when she disappeared that afternoon, “it wasn’t a huge thing until the evening,” he said.  “That’s when I called in a missing person issue.  Especially because that night a storm was coming up at that time, so it was like, okay, this is different now.”

Having no leads in the case raises even more questions.  Was Renee Field the kind of person who could plan a masterful disappearance?  “I don’t know,” her husband answered.  “Apparently.”  He and his wife used to joke around while watching movies, he said, about how staying in your own car means you’ll end up found.  And since “it’s in all the TV shows,” he assumes she knows about credit cards being traceable.  “She’s smart,” he said.  “If she wanted to do something and disappear for a while, I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t be able to do it.  I don’t quite know exactly why, though.”

Branch agrees.  “I think she would know [how to disappear],” he said of his daughter.  “She’s pretty sharp.”

But his daughter has never gone for a long time without calling him and her mother, he said.  In fact, she used to call for things like being 20 minutes late.

Branch hopes Saturday’s event will get his daughter’s attention.  “Maybe she’ll see it on television or in the newspaper and say, ‘Well, I’ll give mom and daddy a telephone call,’” he said.

“The only thing I’m hoping for is she’s okay,” he said.

When Sheriff Eric Hess arrived at Saturday’s event, he provided an update on the case.  “We have no new leads at this time,” he said, “however, we are going back over everything we have, and continue to comb through everything to make sure that nothing has been missed or overlooked.”  He talked about redundancy, or duplication of efforts, to make sure that nothing slips past investigators’ notice, and added that they are “asking questions of other state and local agencies.”

Kenny Jarels, of Help Save the Next Girl, explained that the group tries to raise awareness in the cases it takes on.  “Our location [here at Lowe’s] is near the park and ride where [Renee’s] car was found,” he said, “so we’re hoping we’ll jog someone’s memory that maybe saw her that morning, or maybe saw her getting into another vehicle with someone.  Anything we can do to generate new tips, that’s what we do… And it may be that one tip.  And that’s all it takes.”

Gil Harrington held up a map plotting the hometowns of several missing or murdered women in the area.  “This is a graphic that gets your attention,” she said, “because you become almost habituated or indifferent, because every day there’s another one, but this really makes you look.  These are crimes happening to real people in this community,” she said, gesturing to Rt. 15 in front of her and Lowe’s behind her, “who are driving on this road and shopping in this store.”

Renee Field’s second cousin, Bridget Whorley, watched Help Save the Next Girl become involved in the murder of her neighbor, Alexis Murphy, and later invited the group to highlight her cousin’s disappearance.  Saturday’s event also provided information on other missing women from the area, including Bonnie Santiago, who went missing from Carter Mountain in July.

Whorley said she doesn’t think her cousin would have voluntarily disappeared.  “She had a great life,” she said.  “I just can’t see her putting her parents through something like this.”