Maine woman Sharon Smith was reported missing more than 36-years-ago and local police were close to giving up the search. However, based on recently received information, the cold case file was reopened on Thursday.
After obtaining a search warrant, detectives went to a home in Bangor where her boyfriend once lived and began searching the area. Trying to find the buried remains of Smith, they brought in a small excavator and began digging up the yard.
— Bob Harrod Missing (@findbobharrod) June 26, 2016
According to police spokesman Sergeant Tim Cotton, a small house used to stand in the area being dug up, but now only holds a few rose bushes and a vegetable garden. Investigators used rakes and trowels to look for any trace evidence. Investigators were also looking for blood, clothing, or any other item that may contain DNA, read a police press release.
While Smith’s remains were not found, investigators did find small pieces of plastic. Jars of dirt and other debris were also collected by evidence technicians. A cadaver dog was also there to sniff the dirt, but by early afternoon, the excavator was filling the hole back up.
The week before the dig, ground-penetrating radar equipment was used to look for anything possibly hidden under the surface. Using the results, detectives were able to get a search warrant allowing them to excavate the property.
As reported by the Bangor Daily News, authorities have not released the new information that prompted the search. The court records related to the search warrant were also withheld and the attorney general’s office has refused to comment.
Sharon Smith, a mother of two children, was 25 years old when she disappeared September 4, 1980. She was a dancer at the Paramount Lounge in Bangor. The adult entertainment lounge ultimately closed in 1983 after failing to pay utility bills.
“This is still a missing person’s case. We don’t know exactly what happened to Sharon, but we know she never returned after that point in time,” said Cotton.
Currently, members of the Gilks family own the property. Police believe George Gilks may have something to do with Smith’s disappearance and have interviewed him several times over the years.
Jim Gilks, George’s brother, now lives on the property.
“Never could have happened here,” said Jim Gilks as he and other family members watched investigators search the hole. “This has been gone over and gone over.”
Jim said his brother died 10 years ago at the age of 57. George had moved out of the area when he was 16 and only visited the family when he needed money. Another family member, Kathy Gilks, said George had a major drug and alcohol problem.
George and Sharon were romantically involved prior to her disappearance. Yet, Kathy says her ex-boyfriend saw Smith in a car in a nearby town several weeks after being reported missing. Allegedly, police never followed up on the lead.
“I don’t think she’s alive, but I don’t think George had anything to do with it,” Ms. Gilks said.
Retired Bangor police officer Edward Thorne worked on the Smith case throughout the 1990s. He said an anonymous letter sent to investigators initiated Thursday’s search of the property on New Boston Road.
“This was a case that I left and, you know, I worked on it and I was always concerned about it, and I was concerned about the daughter and trying to help her out,” said Thorne. “She was just young when her mother went missing.”
Speaking to reporters, Thorne said he hoped investigators would find Smith’s body, which would finally give the family closure. In 1999, cadaver dogs were sent out to a property in Carmel, Maine looking for evidence connected to the case.
“There may have been other people that were involved at the time that are still living. I don’t know. That will be up to these detectives to pursue that,” Thorne added.
The investigation into the disappearance of Sharon Smith is one of many cold case files in Bangor. In addition to the Bangor Police Department, the state police and Penobscot County Sheriff are actively involved in the search for the missing Maine woman.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]