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April Baumgarten, Forum Communications Co., Published May 31 2012

Police halt search near Dickinson for missing man

DICKINSON, N.D. – One week has passed since a Bismarck man went missing from a work site north of here.

Though the Dickinson Police Department suspended its search at the site Thursday, more than 30,000 people are following his story on Facebook, and police have ruled nothing out.

Eric Haider, 30, was last seen May 24, near Dickinson, where he was working for Cofell’s Plumbing and Heating Inc. of Bismarck.

He has medical issues including a pacemaker, and Dickinson Police Capt. David Wilkie said officers haven’t ruled out any factors – they have taken his criminal history into consideration.

“The family tells us he had a strong family life and he had a strong relationship with his girlfriend,” Wilkie said. “We can’t find a motive or a reason he would have walked away from his life, but that is your option as a 30-year-old.”

The Burleigh County District Court reopened three cases against Haider on May 2 because he owes $1,225 in fees. A hearing is set for June 7. Charges include drug offenses, operating a vehicle under the influence and eluding police.

Bismarck friend and family representative Rick Lemke said Thursday that Haider and the family knew about the fines.

“There aren’t any of us that believe that he just vanished into thin air and didn’t at least let somebody know about it,” Lemke said, adding they thought he would likely get an extension on the payments.

The Dickinson Police Department has received “a couple” calls from people who claim they saw him anywhere from 100 to 1,000 miles away, Wilkie said, adding sightings have not been confirmed.

“We are checking out everything that comes in,” he said. “Right now it is just about getting the word out and trying to develop these tips.”

Police interviewed friends, family and co-workers. They have conducted a dog search and excavated the work site, Wilkie said, adding police are confident Haider is not at the site, though they could revisit it.

“It’s been a week, and we have nothing,” said Haider’s fiancée, Jody Hewson, who reported him missing.

Haider last made a call from his cellphone Thursday. His phone is turned off, making it impossible to track, Wilkie said.

It is amazing how many people are following the Facebook page, said friend Ashley Anderson of Bismarck.

“There are constantly people sending prayers,” she said. “We had people posting saying they are in California, Texas, New Jersey, Canada and pretty much everywhere in between.”

Anderson created “Eric Haider – we want you home!” Saturday as a way to share information about Haider’s disappearance. The group grew to 8,000 members by Wednesday. By the end of the day Thursday, the group jumped to almost 27,000 and continues to attract attention across the country.

“It’s pretty amazing to have the support of people you don’t even know, and everybody is backing us,” Hewson said.

Lemke also created a group called “Eric Haider reward page” Saturday. People have pledged more than $5,300 toward a reward for information leading to Haider’s whereabouts.

Anderson said he could be anywhere, whether he walked away, was kidnapped or is at the site.

“There’s a good chance Eric is not even in North Dakota anymore,” Anderson said.

Wilkie asks anyone with information to call the police department at (701) 456-7762.

Baumgarten writes for The Dickinson Press

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