Archive for Sunday, December 13, 1992

DISAPPEARANCE OF KU STUDENT BAFFLES FRIENDS

December 13, 1992

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Friends of a Kansas University fraternity member who vanished early Friday after leaving a North Lawrence tavern hiked along the banks of the Kansas River and hit the streets of Lawrence and Eudora on Saturday in hopes of tracking down the missing student.

But despite the efforts of volunteers, Lawrence police and state officials, the disappearance of Alexis Dillard remained unexplained Saturday night.

Lawrence police reported that Dillard, a 22-year-old fifth-year senior from Wichita, was last seen about 12:40 a.m. Friday leaving Johnny's Tavern, 401 N. Second.

Dillard was reported missing about 5:30 p.m. Friday. After learning that Dillard had told friends he had swum across the river in the past, authorities searched the river Friday night and periodically on Saturday.

ALAN LOWDEN, a roommate of Dillard's, said a group of 20 to 35 volunteers banded together Saturday to search from the river bank and distribute 1,500 fliers in Lawrence and Eudora seeking information about the disappearance.

The group also called newspapers and radio and television stations in Topeka, Lawrence and the Kansas City area and asked them to cover the story.

"We haven't seen anything, and we haven't gotten any new leads or anything," Lowden said Saturday evening.

Witnesses and Lawrence police said Dillard had been drinking with several of his pledge brothers from Phi Gamma Delta fraternity before he left the bar.

Police Sgt. Mack Pryor said one to five officers searched the river on and off all day Saturday. For about an hour Saturday morning, he said, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials searched from a boat.

He said state officials patrolled from the Bowersock Dam to a point about two miles downstream.

ABOUT 6 P.M. Saturday, Pryor said authorities were calling off their search for the day. He said officials would regroup this morning to map out further search plans.

Authorities found no conclusive clues about Dillard's whereabouts.

"The information we have is sketchy is best, and that's all we have," Pryor said.

However, Pryor said, footprints that may have been made by Dillard were found on the north riverbank. He said the sole pattern is that of a size 10 Rockport shoe, the type and size of shoes Dillard reportedly was wearing when he disappeared.

Pryor said the prints led to the water. But there was some indication that whoever made the footprints also walked away from the water, he said.

ANDY MARTIN, a KU student who helped search for Dillard on the river bank, said Dillard had swum across the river twice before. But Martin, Lowden and other students who knew Dillard didn't think he would have tried to swim the river at this time of year.

"He was extremely intelligent and he had a lot of common sense," Martin said. "He'd been in ROTC, and he knows about hypothermia; he knows about the current."

Several of Dillard's friends said the disappearance was especially baffling because Dillard had never gone away without telling anybody and didn't appear to be going through any personal problems.

Sue Morrell, program manager for the Kansas Union, said she had known Dillard for almost four years because he worked for Student Union Activities. Morrell took part in the search Saturday by helping print fliers and answering calls at Dillard's apartment.

"HE'S ONE of the most responsible students I've ever worked with," she said, adding that he'd never missed work without notice.

Like Morrell and Lowden, Martin said he believed Dillard may be found alive.

"If we really believed he was here (in the river), we wouldn't have gone out all over town and put up fliers," he said. "We going to do this until . . . he comes home, basically."

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