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By Stephen J. Lee, Published January 22 2009

Search planned for missing Thief River Falls, Minn., woman is postponed

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The plan to use an unmanned submersible to search under the ice for Gina Anderson and her car has been postponed until next month, said Jim Van Schaick, the lead investigator on the case for the Thief River Falls, Minn., police.

Anderson was last seen Oct. 23 driving away from her home in a bright yellow 2002 Pontiac Sunfire. She left her purse and her seizure medication and apparently did not take much, if any, money.

Nothing has been heard of her since, Van Schaick said.

The underwater search had been planned for the middle of this month, but plans were changed because a snowmobile race on the Thief River was taking place the same day. No firm date next month has been set for the search.

The Thief River comes down from the north into Thief River Falls to meet the Red Lake River, which makes a big curve from the south.

There are a number of places in the river where a car could be fully submerged, Van Schaick said.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office in Duluth, Minn., offered use of the underwater search unit, a mini-sub with sonar, cameras and lights controlled from the surface by a tether. It can go down at least 60 feet, saving divers from danger.

The last person known to have seen Anderson was a neighbor from across the street. He said he waved to her and they exchanged a brief greeting as she left her home about 2:30 p.m. The man’s son said he was quite certain he also saw Anderson about three hours later driving south out of the city, according to Van Schaick.

Video from surveillance cameras from the Wal-Mart store near where the young man said he saw Anderson leaving town Oct. 23 show a car that could be Anderson’s, but it’s too grainy to tell for sure, Van Schaick said.

No one has been named as a possible suspect in Anderson’s disappearance, Van Schaick said. Many leads have come in, he said, but nothing has panned out.

Anderson has been missing for three months and Van Schaick said he knows the chances she’s OK are not good.

Anderson’s youngest sister, Jill Lappegaard, died in a single vehicle accident last month near Thief River Falls, where she lived with her parents. If Anderson were alive and heard about her sister’s death, it’s difficult to believe she wouldn’t have contacted her family then, Van Schaick said.

The tragic double blow suffered by the family of Anderson is overwhelming, Van Schaick said. “They deserve some closure.”

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.