Parents hope, pray for missing daughter

38-year-old Lawrence resident 'vanished' five months ago

Marilyn and Gary Anderson, Lawrence, aren't giving up hope that their daughter, Lesley Smith, 38, will be found. Smith has been missing for five months after disappearing from the couple's home.

It’s been five months.

It’s been more than 150 days of waiting and wondering for Gary and Marilyn Anderson.

“Everybody thinks as time goes by — I thought as time went by — that it would get easier,” Marilyn Anderson said. “It doesn’t get easier. It gets harder because it’s just one more day that she’s not here, that we have no word.”

Marilyn Anderson’s only child, 38-year-old Lesley Smith, disappeared Jan. 26 from the couple’s west Lawrence home.

“I went to bed about 10:45 p.m.,” Marilyn Anderson said. “Les and I said our goodnights and ‘I love yous’ as we did every night.”

But when the couple awoke the next morning, their daughter was gone. Her bed hadn’t been slept in. Her purse with her driver’s license, credit cards and much-needed asthma medication sat untouched on her dresser.

The Andersons’ 1990 brown Plymouth Voyager minivan was gone, as was their daughter’s cell phone. Lesley’s mother continues to call the phone weekly, leaving messages, then checking to see whether her daughter has retrieved them.

“None of the messages have been retrieved,” Marilyn Anderson said.

In the days shortly after Smith’s disappearance, Lawrence Police flew over the area searching for any signs of the missing van. Lawrence Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Pattrick said the department also used sonar equipment to search for the van in area lakes and rivers.

“How does a person with a vehicle just vanish?” Marilyn Anderson wondered.

Still searching

One detective remains assigned to the case, but the leads have dwindled. But the Lawrence couple said their quest to find their daughter would not cease.

“Gary and I went out for the first week daily,” Marilyn Anderson said. “Probably the first day we put about 700 miles on our vehicle just looking everywhere. I can’t even tell you how many acres of Clinton Lake I’ve personally walked just looking.”

The Andersons spend every spare moment scouring parking garages for any sign of the van.

Under a recent federal law, hospitals won’t confirm whether Lesley is a patient, so the two have driven to every hospital in Kansas and Missouri, looking for the van in the hospital parking lots.

“It’s amazing the things you do and the places you look, just praying that this will be the time that all of a sudden something is there,” Marilyn Anderson said.

Even when they’re not consciously searching for Lesley, the two find their eyes focused on every van they see.

“If I could have a nickel for every time I’ve followed a van that was brown,” said Lesley’s stepfather, Gary Anderson.

Psychics weigh in

The two said they felt helpless. So they’ve turned to what Gary considers an unlikely source for help.

“We’ve kind of run out of things to do, so now we’re seeing psychics, which I’m terribly skeptical of,” he said. “I put psychics right there with magicians. You know there’s a method to their madness, and they have a way of tricking you.”

The couple have talked to three psychics, one in Chicago, one on a call-in show in Seattle and a psychic who has worked with Kansas City police departments. The woman has a history of finding missing people. Two of the three psychics told the Andersons the same thing: Their daughter is alive and possibly with a man. Gary Anderson said he was even starting to believe it.

“I heard it firsthand,” he said, recounting some details the psychic in Kansas City told him about Lesley.

Over the past five months, the couple have experienced a roller coaster of emotions. They’ve had a couple of “hits” on the van, which is entered in a national crime computer database, but Marilyn Anderson said the vehicles in those cases turned out to have different VIN numbers than the one Lesley was believed to have been driving at the time of her disappearance.

“This is it. This is going to be the time, and then you wait,” Marilyn Anderson said. “That wait is the hardest, and when you find out, that’s probably the lowest you can feel.”

Marilyn said her mother’s instinct told her that her daughter didn’t just run away or leave of her own free will. “My gut feeling is that somebody has done something with her,” she said.

Now she’s pleading with the public, asking for a little help that could provide a lot of answers and put an end to the Andersons’ waiting.

“I really would like anybody that has storage sheds, barns, garages — anything that they have that maybe they have not been into for a while — I’d love it if they would just go out for me and check,” she said, “just to make sure.”