Still at Large
by Robert A. Waters
The old watch: their
puff and foreclose by the moon. The young, heads
trailed by the beginnings of necks,
in the guarantee they shall be bodies.
From "Vapor Train Reflected in the Frog Pond"
by Galway Kinnell
Sheffield, Vermont is so small it has no traffic lights and no stores. It does have a post office and about 700 residents. The joke is that the sign that says “Entering Sheffield” on one side also says “Leaving Sheffield” on the other.
But it was no joke when seventy-eight-year-old Pat O’Hagan disappeared. On September 11, 2010, she was reported missing from her home.
The Vermont State Police took the lead in the investigation. Soon hundreds of law enforcement officers and volunteers combed the woods around the house. Divers scoured a nearby quarry. Helicopters rattled overhead. Searchers on all-terrain vehicles searched farms and fields.
There was no sign of the missing woman.
The frantic family gathered and told investigators that O’Hagan would never have left voluntarily. She’d moved with her husband to Sheffield fifteen years earlier. Her husband died a few years later and Pat lived alone in a refurbished farmhouse. She had five children and nine grandchildren. O’Hagan had many friends and was active in the community.
She loved camping and kayaking. She was president of the Sheffield Historical Society, active in her church, and volunteered at a food pantry.
Police were tight-lipped about the investigation from the beginning. After examining O’Hagan’s home, detectives told reporters that it was obvious she’d been abducted. But no further details were forthcoming.
As the search ramped up, the FBI joined in. Finally, three weeks later, hunters found O’Hagan’s remains. She was located near a hunting camp ten miles from her home. Police informed reporters that she’d been identified by dental records and had been murdered, but gave no other details.
Residents of Sheffield were stunned. “We’re all just very sad,” said Greg Bryant, a friend who worked with O’Hagan at the food pantry. “There’s a huge hole in the community. It’s a small community and she was a big part of it.”
Vermont State Police Major Edward Ledo said, “At this point, someone is responsible for the murder of a seventy-eight-year-old woman and they’re still at large.”
A $ 20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.
In the meantime, residents are locking their doors and looking over their shoulders. “We know that somebody’s out there that knows [something],” Terry O’Hagan, her son, said. “Whether you’re involved, whether you’re not involved, whether you know, please come forward.
Anyone with information should call Detective Sergeant Jason Letourneau at 802-748-3111.