Detectives gave a lie-detector test, tracked down a lead at a lingerie shop and looked out for circling buzzards last week. But after nearly a month, their search for a missing Brooksville woman remained unsuccessful.
"We're basically in a waiting game at this point," said Brooksville police Lt. Terry Chapman.
"The longer she's gone . . . either she does not want to be found, or she's dead."
Donna Sumners, 25, was last seen on the night of Feb. 1 after arguing with her husband, Monroe Sumners, 23, at their second-floor apartment in the Candleglow complex on Candlelight Boulevard.
Police are treating the case as a possible murder. They suspect the husband, but they haven't found the woman's body. Despite circumstantial evidence, police can't even say for sure that a crime was committed.
Right after the disappearance, detectives worked long, busy days. Now, they investigate leads as they come in and use whatever methods they can to advance the search.
A group, including Chief Ed Tincher, gathered in the drizzling darkness on the evening of Feb. 18 and searched the woods and swampy ditches behind the Candleglow apartments.
Feb. 21, Brooksville police received word from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that a woman alleged to have carried on an extramarital affair with Monroe Sumners before the disappearance had passed a lie-detector test in the case.
The test showed that Christy Bennett didn't know what became of Donna Sumners and was not involved in the disappearance, Tincher said. That was not a major revelation; police had not considered the 18-year-old a likely suspect. Still, Tincher said, the test "just closes one more door."
The search is not always high-tech.
The police have kept watch for buzzards circling over wooded areas. One spotting led to the discovery of two dead armadilloes, but that was all.
The family of the missing woman has enlisted the aid of a psychic to help with the search. That too has been fruitless, and police don't generally put much stock in paranormal powers, Chapman said. But he acknowledged that police would check out pretty much any lead at this point and aren't scoffing at any suggestions.
There was a brief rise in hopes last week when police learned of a check Donna had written to Sexy Creations, a lingerie shop on the State Road 50 truck route. Police thought the check might shed light on Donna's activities after she disappeared. As it turned out, the check was from two weeks before Donna's disappearance, Chapman said.
Police are waiting for results from lab tests on a bathroom rug taken from the Sumners' apartment shortly after Donna vanished. The rug appeared to have blood stains. But police said the stains weren't large and even if they turn out to be from blood, that alone probably would not break the case.
What police really need is to find Donna Sumners, Chapman said.
Her family was planning to assemble a search party and comb the woods in several places Sunday and today.
They have been active in the search since Donna vanished. They drive back and forth between Brooksville and their homes in Heflin, Ala., whenever they have the time and money. They have distributed fliers. They have walked through the woods around Brooksville. Some have butted heads with police over the direction and intensity of the investigation. "They're aggravated and frustrated, and that's a natural reaction" to fears about a loved one, Chapman said.
The family will concentrate its search efforts in several places.
One spot will be off Joyce Drive north of the city. The psychic suggested looking there, said Donna's sister, Deborah Bright, 24. The family also will look near Central High School. That's where Monroe Sumners told police he drove into a tree the day after his wife disappeared. He was trying to explain a recent dent to the right front fender of his 1989 Jeep, police said.