About 150 volunteers, all dressed in bright orange, marched along roads and ditches north of Bemidji on Saturday with a common goal in mind: Help find Rose Downwind.
Saturday’s search for the missing 31-year-old Redby, Minn., woman yielded no results.
But Lissa Yellowbird-Chase of Fargo-based organization Sahnish Scouts North Dakota, who helped lead the search, said “some things were found that were interesting to come across. Law enforcement came and there were some things that they felt were warranted in collecting and documenting.
“Everybody went out for a while came back in, got hydrated and went back out,” Yellowbird-Chase said. “We had people from North Dakota, all over Minnesota and even some people from South Dakota come and help today.”
Another half-day public search is scheduled at noon Sunday, again starting at Newby’s Market north of Bemidji, she said.
Saturday’s search began with volunteers meeting at 10 a.m. at Newby’s, located north of Bemidji on Irvine Avenue and Island View Drive. There, Yellowbird-Chase informed the crowd about what indicators to look for, such as clothing, shoes or a possible mobile phone. The search was confined along the roadway, and not to the deep forest, for the safety of searchers, she said.
It’s been more than three weeks since anyone last saw Rose Downwind. Police say she was last seen Oct. 21 leaving a residence on Stoner Avenue in southeast Bemidji. Downwind is described as being an American Indian woman, 5-feet-4-inches tall and 115 pounds with long straight dark hair.
The Bemidji Police Department and the BCA believe foul play was involved in Downwind’s disappearance and the investigation has since focused to an area north of Bemidji, which includes Lake Bemidji State Park and Buena Vista State Forest.
Before searchers began walking the areas just west of the varied “locations of interest” listed by law enforcement, Yellowbird-Chase thanked all those who came out to search and help in other ways.
“It’s really awesome. This is one of the biggest searches that I’ve seen in a really long time,” she said. “It’s nice to see a whole community have concern for their missing. It’s hard to witness when things like this get swept under the rug and cases go cold.
“The young people here today, I’m really proud of you, too. This is part of our heritage,” Yellowbird-Chase said. “When our people would go missing, the whole tribe would go look for that person, even the elders. We’re carrying on a tradition. This is important culturally.”
Communities coming together
Phillip Nelson, a volunteer searcher and Bemidji resident, said he came out to help because, “it’s the proper thing to do.”
“Somebody’s lost, so we have to find her. If it was our family, we would expect the same,” Nelson said. “I think it’s been an excellent turnout today, too. Everyone is volunteering their time on a nice Saturday to do this.”
Georgia Downwind, Rose Downwind’s nonbiological mother, said she was very pleased with Saturday’s turnout, as well.
“A lot of people from Red Lake are here. Even people who don’t know Rose are here to help. This is the way the world needs to be. People helping other people,” Georgia Downwind said. “This is about Rose. There’s no color difference here. Everybody has just come together to help.”
Georgia Downwind described Rose as an “awesome mom” who’s very dedicated to her children.
“That is her life. She’s a kind-hearted, gentle soul,” Georgia Downwind said. “I’m not turning her into a hero just because she’s missing, that’s who she is.”
Since Rose went missing, Georgia Downwind said the whole family has come closer together.
“Everybody has been pitching in and helping,” she said. “This is such a traumatic event. It’s hard to process. We’re just maintaining and still being hopeful. We’re also taking care of the children and they’re very lonesome for their mommy.”
The Bemidji Police Department is asking anyone with information regarding Rose Downwind’s disappearance to call in at (218) 333-9111. Police have also identified two persons of interest, Marchello Anthony Cimmarusti, 40, and Christopher John Davis, 27, along with a pewter colored 2002 GMC Yukon with a Minnesota license plate that reads 325-MGP. Those who saw the two persons of interest or the vehicle between Oct. 19-29 are also asked to call law enforcement.
A Facebook page, Help Find Rose Downwind, is providing updates from the family. A page on the fundraising website GoFundMe has also been established for the family at https://www.gofundme.com/gz7zz3pg.