Family, friends and volunteers gathered in the parking lot of Treats General Store in San Andreas Thursday evening to embark on a second search for Helen Coultrup, an 87-year-old woman who was reported missing nearly one week ago.
“It’s one of our own, and so we’ve just got to do it,” said Denise Konz of San Andreas, who doesn’t know Coultrup personally but participated in the search with her husband, Dewayne.
As another day drew to a close, the search party found no signs of the San Andreas native or her silver/light blue Toyota Yaris hatchback, which was last seen on the afternoon of Aug. 3, leaving the Mar-Val parking lot in Valley Springs to turn onto Highway 26.
Coultrup’s granddaughter, Molly Coldani, who was raised by Coultrup and considers her to be her mother, has spearheaded the search in the midst of parenting responsibilities and work. It’s been tiring, she said, but she can’t give up.
“If I give up, everyone will give up,” Coldani told the Enterprise while assigning maps of search areas to volunteers, alongside Coultrup’s longtime friend Rosie Agaman. Concentrate on smaller roads and check over ledges, were the instructions given.
Coldani fears a similar situation to that of 65-year-old Wilseyville resident Shannon Scott, who went missing last August and was located eight months later when his remains and vehicle were discovered by an Amador County property owner, hidden from view of the roadway.
So far, Coldani and volunteers have covered the majority of the vast area Coultrup would drive during her daily routine. An avid driver, Coultrup would often travel as far south as Angels Camp and north into Jackson, frequenting local diners. She would occasionally visit Valley Springs and, during the weekend, was known to drive up to higher elevations such as Mountain Ranch.
Coldani doesn’t believe her grandmother returned home the night of Aug. 3, as Coultrup did not cross off the date on her calendar per her routine. Her bank account has also remained untouched since her disappearance, Coldani said.
With the help of others, Coldani has organized a Facebook group called Helpers for Helen, as well as a GoFundMe account to raise money for a reward to find Coultrup or her car.
The support she has received from the community is appreciated, Coldani said, but delegating the search has been overwhelming.
Per Coldani’s request, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office issued a Silver Alert on Aug. 5, due to Coultrup's occasional memory issues.
Subsequently, the department has sent out a nationwide broadcast and is actively searching for Coultrup, according to Sgt. Greg Stark with the Sheriff’s Office.
“(Detectives are) checking every area, dead end roads, pull outs, hard corners, everywhere you can think of,” Stark told the Enterprise Aug. 9. “They’re checking financial records, tips and security systems.”
According to Stark, the Sheriff's Office recently received a tip that Coultrup may have been seen in Stockton, and detectives are working to verify the sighting via stationary surveillance systems.
However, none of the tips received thus far have led to Coultrup or her car, and Stark said the Sheriff’s Office is also concerned about a scenario similar to that of Shannon Scott. Even utilizing drones, Stark said, it can be difficult to find a vehicle that is hidden from view without clear skid marks on the road.
In the ongoing search, law enforcement and Coldani are seeking help from media and the public. On Thursday, Coldani and Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio appeared on FOX40 news, requesting that locals throughout the region stay alert and looking.
Another search is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, outside of Cost Less Food Company in Jackson. According to organizers, the effort is in need of all terrain vehicles, drones, hikers and anyone else willing to volunteer.
Coultrup is described as a white female, 5’6” in height, weighing 200 pounds, with brown eyes and short, curly, gray hair. She often wears glasses attached to a necklace and was likely wearing a pink or fuchsia shirt at the time of her disappearance.
Anyone with information regarding Coultrup’s whereabouts is encouraged to call 911 or the Sheriff’s Office at (209) 754-6500.