Missing Clark woman found 32 years later

Thirty-two years ago, Sarah Estes seemingly disappeared.

She and her husband Mitchell left Clark County, including her then 5-year-old daughter, behind in September 1987. They went to New York and eventually to Mississippi, where they lived for decades under assumed names, according to police.

Through the decades, Linda Schooler and her family watched the missing person reports, wondering if it was Sarah. Schooler said she was told at one point that Sarah was already dead.

“Even if we’d found the body, we’d be getting closure,” she said

Earlier this month, Schooler got the phone call she never thought she would receive. Sarah was alive and wanted to find her family.

“It was unreal,” Schooler said about the call she received from a hospital security guard in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on March 1.

“I talked to her and (they) sent a picture,” Schooler said.

She knew it was her missing sister, and she couldn’t get to Mississippi fast enough.

“My daughter and I drove all night,” she said. “The security guard brought us in the room and said, ‘Do you know this lady?’ She said, ‘That’s my sister Linda.’”

Since then, Schooler barely left her side before bringing Estes back to Winchester to spend her final days with the family she was separated from for more than three decades. Schooler said Estes has stage 4 breast cancer and her time is short.

“When we were in the hospital, she said, ‘I want to go home.’ She was so afraid she would die and not see us again,” Schooler said.

It also brings a rare happy ending to a decades-old missing person case.

Winchester Police Detective Dennis Briscoe said he had been in touch with Schooler and her family occasionally, including in 2017 when he took a DNA sample from their mother for comparison, if needed. From the police’s point of view, the case came to a standstill with no leads and no new information.

“We worked with the (federal) marshal because they wanted to find (Mitchell),” Briscoe said.

According to media reports, Mitchell Estes was wanted in connection with the homicide of Albert Lewis Boyd in Lexington in the 1980s. Mitchell Estes reportedly died in 2015.

Briscoe said he spoke with Sarah Estes earlier this month in Winchester.

“They both left Winchester and went to New York City and visited one of her aunts,” Briscoe said. “They were last seen entering a Greyhound bus station in New York.”

He said Estes had been living near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with Mitchell since the 1990s. She surfaced when she went to the hospital for medical care, he said.

“She was attempting to enter the hospital under the fake name she had used for years,” he said. “She finally gave her real name and that’s how it started.”

For Winchester Police, the case is closed.

“This has been the longest one where the missing person ended up OK,” Briscoe said. “Usually it doesn’t happen like this.”

Estes’ family is just happy to have her back in Winchester.

“It doesn’t matter if she had six days, six weeks or six months,” Schooler said. “She’s home.”