The Herald Bulletin

November 9, 2009

Anderson woman still hopeful for missing girl’s return

Detective revisits case when tips come his way

By Christina M. Wright, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON, Ind. — Twelve poster-sized missing persons decals cover Patti Bishop’s car, but it’s the story of Anderson’s Melinda “Mindy” Creech that has plagued Bishop for 30 years.

The last time anyone saw Mindy, it was Sept. 4, 1979. She was 14 years old.

Thirty years later, native-Andersonian Bishop is keeping hope that she will be found, even though the detective on the case says it may be a body instead of a live person.

“There’s a lot of hope that she’s alive,” Bishop said. “You never give up that hope unless you have physical evidence.”

Bishop founded IN Hope, an Indiana nonprofit organization that searches and advocates for missing people, in 2000 after her stepdaughter’s disappearance. Since then, Mindy has been featured on her car, on her Web site and at her Squeaky Wheel concerts — put on to bring awareness about missing people throughout the nation.

According to police reports, Mindy ran away from home a few times as a child. After stealing motorcycles with another teenager, Mindy was placed in an all-girls detention home — also known as the “Blake House.” On Sept. 4, she disappeared.

“Someone here knows something,” Bishop said. “People are coming back for reunions and to help their family. Someone knows something.”

According to Detective David Callahan, of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Mindy’s mother told her siblings that a body found on the East Coast was matched to Mindy’s dental records. But, when their mother died a few years ago, the family found a letter from that agency stating the exact opposite. For all those years, their mother, Shirley Creech, had lied to them and no one knows why.

“It’s awfully suspicious,” Callahan said. “But, other than being suspicious, we don’t have any evidence that the mother had done her any harm.”

He added that the family claimed their mother could be abusive, but even that information cannot confirm or deny that she was involved in Mindy’s disappearance.

“It’s a possibility, but there’s no evidence that we could find,” Callahan said. A phone number for Mindy’s brother was not answered Sunday.

Over the past five years since Mindy’s case landed on Callahan’s desk, he has received about 15 requests from New York to Los Angeles for Mindy’s dental records to be compared with remains. None of them returned as a positive match.

“I revisit it whenever any new tips come in,” he said, noting that the last tip was received about a month ago.

No tips have confirmed or denied whether Mindy was still alive. According to a 1997 study — Case Management for Missing Children Homicide Investigation, abducted children are rarely murdered. However, the study said children who are murdered, are killed within three hours. But, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the chances have gotten better over the years, with 96 percent recovered in 2009.

Callahan said there has not been any activity on Mindy’s Social Security number or with any credit cards for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, he said, a body will most likely be the resolution to his longest missing-persons case.

“You always want to keep your hopes up,” he said. “But, honestly, I think that we’re just waiting for a body to be discovered.”

However, Bishop said it’s 100 percent possible that Mindy is still living. She said, for all anyone knows, Mindy is living right in Madison County with no interest in being found. If that’s the case, Mindy can contact any police agency and tell them as much. She would not face charges.

Bishop said, in that case, she’d still be ecstatic even though the agency wouldn’t tell her where Mindy is.

“It would be tears of joy,” she said. “It would give other families hope. There would just be a flurry of, ‘She’s Alive!’” Although hopeful, Bishop said any possible conclusion would provide “resolution” for the community and family. And, she said, she looks forward to that day.

“Once you’ve been touched by the missing, you just feel different,” she said with a wink.

Contact Christina M. Wright: 640-4883, christina.wright@heraldbulletin.com.