Chelan County detectives are investigating whether missing mushroom hunter Hildegard Hendrickson may have been the victim of “foul play” – not because they think she was, but because no trace of her has been found.
“We’re definitely not ruling that out, but we have nothing that specifically points to it,” Sheriff Brian Burnett said today.
The search for the 79-year-old retired Seattle University educator and well-known mushroom hunter was suspended after six fruitless days that involved more than 60 searchers on foot, eight dog teams, plus searchers on horseback and in a helicopter.
Hendrickson was last seen June 8 by other mushroom hunters at the Minnow Creek Trailhead, about 15 miles northeast of Lake Wenatchee.
Although the search has been suspended, Burnett said the case is still open and detectives are assigned to it. Anyone who may have seen Hendrickson before she disappeared June 8, or who has any information on the case, is asked to call 509-663-9911.
Sheriff Sgt. Kent Sisson, who coordinated the search, said, “We need to step back and look at some other aspects of the case.”
Regarding the possibility of foul play, Sisson said, “You always investigate that side of any search.” But Hendrickson’s purse and money were found in her unlocked car at the trailhead, making it hard to see what a motive might have been for harming her, he said.
Volunteer searchers over the weekend included some who know Hendrickson from the Puget S
ound Mycological Society, a group of mushroom enthusiasts she joined in the 1970s.
Members of the group say that in her honor, today they will hold the mushroom-identification clinic she usually hosted each Monday, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
Some mushroom hunters have said they plan to continue the search for Hendrickson in the mountainous terrain where she disappeared, but Burnett urged caution.
“We don’t want to have people up there who don’t know the area and we end up with another search,” he said.