News conference called in Summer Shipp case

October 2007

The Kansas City Star

The Jackson County’s Sheriff’s Office has scheduled a news conference for 8:30 tonight, at which officials are expected to announce a break in the Summer Shipp investigation.

Earlier today, sources indicated that the remains found Sunday in the Little Blue River were those of Shipp, the Kansas City woman who disappeared in 2004 while conducting a door-to-door survey in Independence.

Two fishermen found what authorities described as a human skull along the riverbank less than a mile from a park shelter near Missouri 78 and Missouri 7. A team from Lee’s Summit Underwater Recovery searched the area Sunday night and Monday and reportedly found more bones, along with clothing that was wrapped in fishing line.

Initial reports indicated that the skull came from either a small adult or child. A flier listing information about Shipp after she disappeared described her as 5 feet tall, weighing 105 pounds.

Authorities were at the site again today and recovered more items, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Late this afternoon, a family friend said some of Shipp’s relatives were told that the remains might be Shipp’s.

Shipp, 54, vanished Dec. 8, 2004. She was last seen going door-to-door in an Independence neighborhood. Her car, a bronze 1986 BMW, was found three days later in the 1500 block of West College Terrace. Witnesses reported seeing her walking toward a house on that street.

Police arrested a man who lived there for outstanding warrants. Investigators searched the house, impounded his vehicle, and gathered evidence for testing, but he was later released.

Months later, that man’s mother acknowledged that he was a prime suspect in Shipp’s disappearance and asked police to search her backyard. Investigators used cadaver dogs and metal prods to search the property for roughly two hours. They found nothing.

Shipp was widely known because she once owned a Westport movie house and was involved in various area social circles. Friends and family members described her as a positive, caring, loving person.

Her strawberry-blond hair and smiling face has been seen on fliers, posters, Web sites even television shows that spread word of her disappearance. Police and volunteers have searched Independence streets and neighborhoods repeatedly since she vanished.

One effort in February 2005 gained attention because searchers found a Sutherland’s store discount card while searching in northern Independence. Investigators determined the card was from a mass mailing and had not been used.

Her disappearance has been highlighted on area billboards, and several national television shows.