UPDATED: 10:23 p.m., 7/14/14
Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office
Special Media Release for July 14, 2014
Despite extensive search efforts, supported by local businesses and volunteers, and state resources, Claudine J. Gifford, 43, of the Burgess area, has yet to be found. She was seen last in the early evening of July 6 in the area of the Windmill Point Marina in the company of Todd Kessler.
On Saturday, 53 volunteers plus support staff of Virginia’s state search and rescue groups converged at Windmill Point to conduct a thorough, detailed search for Ms. Gifford or any evidence related to her and her disappearance on July 6.
Participating in the scope of the search were members of the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group (Vienna), Greater Atlantic Rescue Dogs (Virginia Beach), Piedmont Search and Rescue (Richmond), Tidewater Search and Rescue (Virginia Beach), Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association (northern Virginia), Dogs East (Spotsylvania), and K-9 Alert (Richmond).
This combined search group arrived with their own command post and staff complete with radios, maps, and GPS mapping equipment. The search teams covered all land and marsh areas from Oyster House Drive south to end of Windmill Point. A separate search area, between the Corbin Lewis Estate and Close Quarters subdivision, was included because Ms. Gifford’s cellphone was “pinged” off the cell tower in that area.
A detailed GPS report will be provided to the sheriff’s office later this week, showing where each search team member went throughout the 12 hours it took to cover both areas. Investigator D.S. Hogge arranged for the state search and rescue units to conduct the extensive search operation.
Supporting these volunteers and other state and local agencies were the White Stone Volunteer Fire Department (ice, tables and chairs for meals); Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department (cook staff), Anna’s Pizza (food and drink), Kilmarnock Volunteer Rescue Squad (medical stand-by for search personnel), Lloyd B. Hubbard (food tent), Windmill Point Marina (electrical services, 2 boat slips, golf cart, command post location), Sports Center (commercial grill for meal preparation), Virginia State Police (helicopter unit), Virginia Marine Resources Commission (boat and crew), and the Virginia Department of Emergency Services (coordinated with request for state search and rescue volunteers).
Sheriff Crockett complimented the search and rescue volunteers, saying, “It’s amazing to see so many volunteers who spend their time and their money to help someone else. All of these people have my thanks for coming out to help. It was hot, tiring work, and not the first complaint from any one of them.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the search and rescue teams may do so by contacting the sheriff’s office. “I could not have asked for more help from the local businesses, fire departments, and individuals who have done their best to help my office with this case,” said the sheriff. “We are all truly very grateful to the community that never fails to come forward when help is needed.”
Lt. E.T. Self, chief investigator in charge of the case, said, “EMS Chief Terry McGregor was awesome. He was on site the entire time doing whatever needed to be done to help the search operation run smoothly. The VMRC boat operator not only helped with the shoreline search on Thursday and again on Saturday, he helped with the ground search on Thursday as well. Doc Lyons, a retired state police investigator and now with the Northumberland Sheriff’s Office, was most helpful with his expertise as a consultant on cases of this nature. Glenn Rowe, who handles the county’s E911 mapping system, provided us with the oversized detailed maps of the search areas that were vital to the coordination of the search teams.”
Although any active search operation has been curtailed, the investigation as to what happened to Ms. Gifford is still active. “This is not the proper time to discuss all aspects of the investigation. We want to find Ms. Gifford and find out what happened to her,” said Lt. Self.
Anyone with information about Ms. Gifford’s disappearance, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is asked to contact the Lancaster Sheriff’s Office or call Crime Solvers at 804-46CRIME.