Posted on Wed, Oct. 10, 2007 10:15 PM

Searchers continue to comb for evidence in Shipp death


The Kansas City Star

Scores of searchers Wednesday continued combing land near the Little Blue River in eastern Jackson County, hoping to find evidence in the death of Summer Shipp.

Authorities on foot and horseback and in boat and helicopter spent all day seeking clues into the death of the 54-year-old Kansas City woman who disappeared in December 2004.

Police wouldn’t say what they found, but acknowledged they were gathering just about anything that wasn’t natural to the riverbank and adjoining system of park trails.

“We don’t know what may be evidence or not,” said Independence police spokesman Tom Gentry. “They’re picking up just about everything.”

The area under scrutiny is extensive, and it was unclear how long the search would last. Searchers planned to return today.

“It is about a 2- to 3-mile area,” Gentry said, “and about a seven-mile stretch of the river.”

The search included cadets from a local police academy who had divided the area into a grid. Members of a fire academy filled sandbags to dam and drain a part of the river.

Authorities have not officially ruled how Shipp died, but are treating her death as a crime. They have declined to say whether they have questioned anyone in connection with her death or whether they had developed any suspects.

The search was sparked Sunday when two fishermen found a human skull floating near the riverbank near Missouri 78 and Fisher Road.

The effort has grown each day since. Investigators Monday and Tuesday found more bones and clothing, then confirmed Tuesday night that they had identified the remains as those of Shipp. She was last seen conducting a door-to-door marketing survey in an Independence neighborhood nearly 10 miles from where her remains were found.

“We know that she was missing, we know that she was found here, miles away from where her car was,” said Ronda Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. “We don’t think she got here on her own.

“We don’t know how long the body has been here; it very well may have been here for three years, or not,” Montgomery said.

Family and friends of Shipp on Wednesday confronted the reality of her death as searchers worked.

Janice Cogburn drove to the area near the river and watched as sympathizers built a makeshift memorial. She said she was a friend of Shipp’s daughter, Brandy Shipp, and was hoping to buoy other supporters.

“Brandy never gave up,” said Cogburn, referring to Brandy Shipp’s endeavors to solve her mother’s disappearance. “I think Brandy always wanted to focus on the positive.”

Brandy Shipp had moved to Europe and was trying to return to Kansas City, said Summer Shipp’s ex-husband, John Shipp.

Summer Shipp’s disappearance triggered an extensive media campaign by friends and family seeking information on her whereabouts.

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The Star’s Donald Bradley contributed to this report. To reach Kevin Hoffmann, call 816-234-7801 or send e-mail to