April 22, 2005
One year later: Where is Jeremy Alex?http://tinyurl.com/bpw9c
BY DANIEL DUNKLE
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - About 300 people gathered in the Jarvis Center in Portsmouth April 22 to celebrate the life of a Northport man who disappeared without a trace April 24, 2004.
After a year of investigation, searches and even one false sighting, Jeremy T. Alex, who would now be 29 years old, is still missing, but not forgotten. About a dozen of his friends from the Belfast area made the trip to Portsmouth to say a few words about Alex, to sing a few songs and even to share in his favorite meal of homemade macaroni and cheese. In addition, a fund has been set up in his name to help at-risk teens "find the right road."
His father, Ted Alex of Portsmouth, said the event closed one chapter, but it does not mark the end of the search for his son.
"I'm not hopeful he's alive," Ted Alex said. "I am hopeful that we will find him and have final closure."
Alex said the next step in the search for his missing son will be to hire a private investigator.
"Someone knows something," he said. "Someone could have done him harm."
Alex said he is concerned that foul play may be involved in the disappearance of his son.
Waldo County Sheriff's Department Detective Jason Trundy said he, too, believes there are people out there who have information in the case, but for some reason they do not want to come forward. Trundy said police have considered a number of possibilities. Jeremy Alex might have had a drug overdose, he might have just taken off without telling anyone, and police are not ruling out the possibility of foul play, Trundy said.
Alex was last seen at 5:20 p.m. Saturday, April 24, 2004, in the Pound Hill Road area of Northport. Cynthia and James Munkelt of the Bay Ridge Road made a call to police and reported that Alex had emerged from the woods into their back yard. Police were told Alex was distraught and appeared to be hallucinating.
According to Trundy, Munkelt told police Alex was clutching a wad of money in one hand and told her, "Bad guys are after me. Don't call the cops."
Alex talked about having an argument with his girlfriend. Trundy said Alex appeared to recognize the Munkelts one minute and not know who they were the next. The Munkelts had contacted police when Alex showed up in their yard, Trundy said, and when he heard sirens, he ran off into the woods.
Trundy said James Munkelt tried to restrain Alex from leaving, but could not stop him.
Contacted at her home Monday, Cynthia Munkelt said she did not want to comment on the case.
Suzanne Forqueran of Belfast, Alex's girlfriend, said her last conversation with Alex was the morning of April 24. "He was freaking out," she said. "It wasn't a good conversation. He was not in his right mind."
Forqueran said Alex said something to her that was similar to what he said to the Munkelts about "bad guys" coming after him. She said it could have been paranoia.
"Maybe someone really was after him," she said.
Alex had visited his girlfriend that morning and was in the process of moving his belongings that day to their new home at Harbor Road in Northport.
Trundy said he was not surprised Alex, who had had a few minor brushes with the law, did not want to talk to the police. He said Alex had been known to use a variety of drugs.
Police found Alex's van, with his keys and cell phone inside, the next day in a small gravel parking lot owned by the Northport Humane Society on Pound Hill Road. Trundy said police expected Alex to come back for his vehicle within a day or two. As time wore on, police were concerned that he might have hurt himself in the woods and be in need of help, Trundy said. Extensive searches were carried out April 27 and May 2.
About 30 individuals began a search of the area between Bluff and Pound Hill roads and the search later expanded to the area west of Route 1. A woman traveling in the area had reported seeing a man fitting Alex's description crossing Route 1. She told police he went back across the road as she passed by.
The search party included six K-9 teams from Maine Search and Rescue, members of the Waldo County Sheriff's Department and five Maine Game Wardens. A search plane was also used. The search lasted for four full days.
Another search was conducted the weekend of Sept. 26, 2004.
Trundy said he does not believe police are any closer to finding Alex today. He said, however, that police continue to actively investigate any leads and follow up on any calls that come in. He said police have spent a lot of hours on the case.
For the past year, the same description of Jeremy Alex has appeared in newspaper accounts and posters around Belfast.
Alex was born in Portsmouth, N.H., April 8, 1976, the son of Ted Alex and Paula Caswell. He grew up in Belfast and attended Belfast Area High School. He is described as 5'7" tall and weighs about 155 pounds. He has brown eyes and brown hair. He was last seen wearing an olive drab sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. He was working as a self-employed landscape gardener.
His friends and family, however, describe him in other terms, focusing more on his personality.
"Jeremy was a free spirit," his father said. "... He was a minimalist, a good soul. He was very intelligent, well-read, articulate. He and Suzi were a good couple. They were in love with each other. She's been through as much as we have."
On April 22, when his loved ones gathered in Portsmouth to celebrate his life, Suzanne Forqueran read a few words she had written about Alex.
"I think of the night we chased a thunderstorm on bicycles," she wrote. "That was the night I knew that one day we would share a deeper love than just friends."
Forqueran said Monday that the celebration brought a little closure and gave Alex's friends a chance to say what they wanted to say about him. During the event, 80 photos of Alex were displayed in a PowerPoint presentation. Loved ones also sang a few songs including "Turn, turn, turn" by the Byrds and Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game."
"When you miss someone, you think of the reasons why," Forqueran wrote. "I think of the kindness, I think of his sense of humor. I think of his confidence, intelligence and an inner beauty and energy that people want to be near. I think of his drive not to just watch life, but to live it."
Trundy said Alex had been known to take off on trips across the country without notice or telling anyone where he was going. He had followed the rock band Phish around for a while, attending their concerts.
"He wouldn't hesitate to stick his thumb up and go," Trundy said.
However, he said that in the past, Alex had always made contact with someone, a friend or family member. He said loved ones usually had a general idea where Alex had gone. To be gone a year without contacting anyone was not typical for him, Trundy said.
"In my heart, I believe he wouldn't put people through this if he could help it," Forqueran said. "... Anything is possible. That's the worst part. I hate to think he took off, but I hate to think he's dead."
"He would have contacted me," his father, Ted, said. "I have all of his belongings. He wouldn't have left without these things."
Ted Alex said the last time he talked to his son was a few weeks before he went missing. He said it was just a social call to say hello. He noted that before he went missing, his son always called on Father's Day and on Ted's birthday, July 20.
"Belfast was where he wanted to live," his father said. "We were talking about buying some land and me helping him do that. He was looking toward the future."
Jeremy's mother, Paula Caswell and his sister Nikohl McGee live in Springfield, Mo.
For the family, the most difficult part might have been in September when a case of mistaken identity built up their hopes only to have them crushed. Three witnesses reported seeing a man fitting Alex's description on Makers Cove Road in Owls Head, but the witnesses had the wrong man. They had seen another man who looked like Jeremy.
"The Owls Head thing was a horrible coincidence," Ted Alex said. He said it was a case of another young man who was autistic who looked like Jeremy and whose name was Jeremy.
"We dropped everything and went to Owls Head," Alex said. "We thought that day, OK, something happened to him. He was delusional, it was a freak thing. We thought he was alive."
Alex said he remembered questioning a witness at the time.
"I think the person that saw him was agitated with me. I said, 'Look at this picture and tell me if it's him.' The guy said, 'Yeah, that's him.'"
Alex's father was determined that something positive would come out of what he described as a "horrible thing," and that his son's name would live on. He set up the Jeremy Alex Fund to help young people at risk. The fund has raised more than $50,000 so far, including $15,000 provided by one anonymous donor April 1. Alex said the fund will be used to help high school students who are dealing with peer pressure to find the right road.
Ted Alex, who works in property management was able to set up the fund through the Portsmouth Rotary Club. He was president of the club at the time of his son's disappearance.
"It helped me get through the last year," Alex said.
The Jeremy Alex fund is just one of the endowments that Rotary runs, but Alex said this one is more about helping at-risk kids than just providing scholarships.
"It will really have an impact," he said.
People can send donations to: Rotary Club of Portsmouth, Attn: Jeremy Alex Fund, PO Box 905, Portsmouth, N.H. 03802-0905.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Jeremy Alex should contact Detective Trundy at the Waldo County Sheriff's Department, 338-2040.
Daniel Dunkle can be reached at email@example.com
or 338-3333. n