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Search for missing Great Falls woman enters third week

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 10:33:38-05

GREAT FALLS — The search for Amy Harding-Permann is entering its third week in Great Falls.

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Cascade County Sheriff's Office posted several photos of deputies continuing to search for clues in and along the Missouri River.

They wrote: "Undaunted by high winds and cold temperatures; CCSO Detectives and Search and Rescue continue to search for Amy Harding."

Harding, 34, was last seen leaving her residence at 343 Flood Road on foot at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26.

The next day, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said Harding-Permann reportedly got into an argument with her boyfriend John VanGilder at the residence. She then allegedly assaulted him before leaving the house and headed in the direction of the Missouri River, which is very close to the house.

Slaughter said that search crews were called out quickly because Harding was not dressed for the weather and temperatures at the time were in the 30s with wind-chills below freezing.

"At the point that our initial search did not find her, due to the weather conditions, her not being dressed appropriately and due to the environment and conditions we were in, she was a missing person," the sheriff said.

Agencies involved in the search include the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Great Falls Police Department, Malmstrom Air Force Base, and rural fire departments. Searchers have been looking on the ground, in the river, and in the air with a helicopter and drone. Search dogs are also being used.

On Jan. 29, about 175 people responded to a call for volunteers to help search a wide area around the house.

On Feb. 3, Slaughter said he wanted the community to know that although his agency may not provide public updates every day, there are still search efforts taking place, whether it is for Amy or any other missing person.

“It’s called criminal justice information," he said. "If we were to give the public all that information, it could hinder our investigation or give a suspect or possible perpetrator the ability to ruin our investigation.”

When it comes to discussing the details of what has or hasn’t been searched, Slaughter said there is some information they just cannot share with the public at this point, and detectives are not ruling out any possibilities.

“I know people get frustrated, and I know people want certain information, or they demand of us - which they should, because we work for them," he said. "They demand of us certain things but at the end of the day one of the things they need to understand is, to search something with a search warrant signed by a judge we have to have a crime that’s been committed (and) being a missing person is not a crime.”

“I can assure you that in a missing person case we are very reactive to those leads and when we get a lead we immediately launch a search,” he said. “One of the most dangerous things we can do is make assumptions. We don't want to focus on one aspect and end up missing anything.”

If you have any information about the case you are asked to call the sheriff’s office at 406-454-6979.