It now has been more than a year since Paul Worsham, for all intents and purposes, simply vanished. July 23 marked the anniversary for Worsham’s daughter, Colleen Papen, and her family, being exactly 12 months since her father was last seen, slowly walking down a lane on the family’s huge farm outside Wyoming.
It now has been more than a year since Paul Worsham, for all intents and purposes, simply vanished.
July 23 marked the anniversary for Worsham’s daughter, Colleen Papen, and her family, being exactly 12 months since her father was last seen, slowly walking down a lane on the family’s huge farm outside Wyoming.
“It was a sad day,” Papen said of the anniversary. “I remember when I got up last Wednesday morning that it was the same kind of day it was last year.”
A couple of friends took her out to lunch in an effort to distract her, and others sent flowers and cards, Papen said. But still, it was her father who was on her mind.
The 83-year-old Worsham’s disappearance brought an immediate flood of state police, concerned friends and professional trackers, all intent on finding the missing man. They combed the entire farm and surrounding Wyoming countryside, and later were followed up by helicopter searches and divers probing the ponds and waterways surrounding the Papen homestead.
The result, then as now, was nothing. No confirmed sightings, no articles of clothing discovered, no traces of Worsham’s whereabouts at all.
“It really is as if he just vanished in a puff of smoke,” Papen said.
‘It’s been very frustrating’
Worsham’s daughter and immediate family aren’t the only ones who have been thinking about the retired Air Force veteran.
Delaware State Police Det. Stephen Fausey, an 18-month veteran of the department’s major crimes unit, has been on the case since the day Worsham was reported missing. Fausey was hoping for a quick resolution to the disappearance not only for Papen’s sake, but because Worsham needed a cane to walk, required daily medications for a variety of age-related illnesses and, most seriously, suffered from a mild case of dementia.
“It’s best to find them as soon as possible because they can be on the move quite a bit,” Fausey said. “You’re always fighting time; every hour that goes by they can get further away and the area you have to search gets bigger and bigger.”
“We interviewed all the truck drivers that were on the farm that day,” he said. “We searched the entire farm, talked to anyone he knew to see if he had said something, talked to people at the senior center and at the air base.”
In addition, as soon as Worsham went missing, information listing him as an endangered adult was issued to state and national police agencies, Fausey said. But even that has turned up nothing.
“It’s been very frustrating not to be able to find any information or to be able to do anything for the family, either to bring him home or to give them some sort of closure,” he said.
Even senior members of the state police, with much more time on the force than Fausey’s eight years, say they never have seen a case where there is so little go to on, he said.
“This is something unique in that we have no leads at this point,” Fausey said.
Little more than hope
As far as the Papen family is concerned, they understand the difficulties faced by the detectives.
“I feel the state police have done a very thorough job,” Papen said. “The simple truth is there have been no sightings, no leads, no evidence. What can you do with that?”
Although the odds are against Worsham being found safe and sound, Papen said she couldn’t yet consider what could be the worst-case scenario.
“I don’t have a feeling either way on it,” she said. “It’s just hope, wishful thinking maybe. But stranger things have happened.”
Twice recently, Papen said it seemed as if things were back to normal, that her father had never disappeared. Once was when she heard a bus outside, like the kind Worsham used to take. The second was when she set a fifth place at the dinner table, something she hadn’t done for a year.
“It was horrible to remember that, but I guess that’s just normal,” she said.
But she does think that some day, some how, the family will get that closure Fausey believes they deserve.
“It’s all we can hope for now,” Papen said. “Some kind of answer.”
Email Jeff Brown at email@example.com.