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Sheriff asks for volunteers to help in the search for missing Great Falls woman

Posted at 11:29 AM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 14:40:19-05

GREAT FALLS — Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said during a news conference Tuesday morning that the search continues for Amy Harding-Permann.

He says that with improving weather conditions, he is asking people who wish to help in the search to meet at Faith Lutheran Church, 1300 Ferguson Drive, at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday and be prepared to assist until sunset.

Slaughter asked that volunteers be in good health and wear weather-appropriate clothing. He asked that volunteers also wear a safety vest (such as used for hunting) or a life-jacket (such as used for boating). Bring your own water and a sack lunch, along with identification and a cell phone. He stressed that safety of the volunteer searchers is critical.

He also said that a "Code Red" alert will be sent out to alert people in and around the search area that searchers will be in the vicinity of Woodland Estates and Flood Road on Wednesday.

Slaughter declined to release any details of the investigation at this point, and stressed that it is still a missing person investigation.

Harding, a 34-year old nurse in Great Falls, was last seen leaving her residence at 343 Flood Road on foot at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26.

Slaughter said on Monday that Amy 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.

VanGilder told police she was not dressed for the weather as she was only wearing a long sleeve shirt and yoga pants.

Slaughter said that search crews were called out quickly because Harding was not dressed for the weather. 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," Slaughter said.

Searchers and detectives from the sheriff's office, Great Falls Police Department, Malmstrom Air Force Base, and rural fire departments looked throughout the day on the ground, in the river, and in the air with a helicopter and drone. Search dogs are also being used.

Slaughter also clarified what criteria needs to be met before his office will consider someone a missing or endangered person. Slaughter said that each case is different, and they do not wait for a specific time frame before someone is considered missing.