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Missing Missoula woman’s belongings found, family searches for answers

Melissa Arnold
Posted at 8:40 AM, Jul 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 10:06:47-04

MISSOULA - The Montana Department of Justice reports that 104 people have been missing from Montana for more than a year. However, most people who go missing are found – approximately 98%.

Melissa Arnold is one of Montana's missing people. Four years after her disappearance, new developments are keeping Arnold's family looking for her.

MTN News talked with Arnold's sister who says finding her belongings is heartbreaking, but the family is still looking for her – looking for answers.

“It was just devastating. Life stopped,” Melissa’s sister Sharelle Mendenhall said.

Arnold went missing from Missoula in February of 2018. Mendenhall, says she remembers her as caring, adventurous, and as a good cook.

“I remember when we were little for some reason, she climbed in my bunk bed with me, Mendenhall said.” And I remember looking up at the ceiling and not wanting to move because I didn’t want to wake her up.”

Arnold was 37 when she disappeared and years later, her family hasn’t given up hope. “And now we get a call like hey we found some of her belongings, after four and a half years, like the case was cold,” Mendenhall said.

She told MTN News their goal now is to find and closure, “that was my prayer, at the beginning of this year, was answers.” Someone found Arnold’s pants, belt, and wallet in Sanders County in June.

“Seeing those pictures and seeing how dilapidated they were, it was hard, that’s where the emotions completely changed,” Mendenhall said.

“I do know that the Missoula Police Department investigated this case very thoroughly back in 2018 and then when additional leads or tips came in those were also investigated,” Mendenhall recalled. “When those personal belongings were discovered, a detective from MPD went out to that location and collected the items.”

Missoula Police Department spokeswoman Lydia Arnold says the items will be sent to the Montana State Crime Lab for forensic testing.

“Any time somebody has a missing relative, we want to express our condolences that has got to be very challenging, and we understand that has got to be very challenging when you have somebody missing whos a loved one to you.”

Mendenhall and some of Melissa’s other family members organized a search this weekend with the help of more than 40 volunteers.

“Overwhelming support and love of just, hey you guys are going through hell, let me try and help,” Mendenhall said.