Private investigator now involved in search for missing Clarksburg woman

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CLARKSBURG — A private investigator has now added her background and expertise to the ongoing search for Joanne "Jo" Ringer, who has been missing since early March.

"I believe we have narrowed the (search) area significantly," said Sarah Stein, who works with the Center for the Resolution of Unresolved Crimes.

Stein said she could not further elaborate on where those "narrow areas of interest," may be nor whether those areas are in Berkshire or Hampshire counties.

Ringer, 39, has neither been seen nor heard from since March 2, when she failed to show up for her first shift driving a cab in Easthampton.

She was reported missing two days later and her abandoned car was found in Easthampton two days after that.

The Berkshire District Attorney's office named her husband, Charles "Chad" Reidy, as the sole suspect in her disappearance and is investigating the matter as a homicide. Reidy took his own life on April 7.

Two weeks later, his ex-girlfriend, Laura Reilly, of Easthampton, was charged with three counts of misleading police for allegedly lying to investigators about her and Reidy's whereabouts in the days following Ringer's disappearance.

Reilly has not been accused of causing Ringer any harm and her attorney has said she has "nothing to do" with her disappearance.

Stein is working with a team of three on the case and with the assistance of former Granby Police Chief Louis Barry, who is the holder of the center's private investigator's license, she said.

"I work with a team of people, because the best approach to these cases is collaborative thinking," she said.

Stein said the Ringer family, including 19-year-old daughter, Savanah, reached out to her via Facebook for her assistance.

"I was so appreciative that they would reach out to me," Stein said. "That's a big honor."

Stein, who describes herself as a forensic and behavioral analyst, said she's met with the family and is in regular contact with them, collecting and sharing information.

"I put together a behavioral analysis of where Jo most likely is, based on all of that information, and gave that to the state police," Stein said.

In April, Berkshire DA David F. Capeless, updated the media and public on the state of the investigation up to that point and asked individuals and groups to not conduct their own searches and to allow authorities to do their job.

Stein said there are good reasons to discourage such activity and to be selective about what information gets released to the public.

"As frustrating as it is for families and for [the media] and sometimes for me, [authorities] can't compromise the information that they have at the risk of someone destroying evidence," Stein said. "One thing I've found in a lot of my investigations, as much as the media helps and can put pressure on people and things like that, what it also attracts is people who are going to take it upon themselves to go out and potentially contaminate a scene and you get, for lack of a better word, a lot of `armchair detectives,' who think they know what they're doing."

"When you get groups or get people who like to go rogue and want media credit ... it's really dangerous," she said.

Another reason to discourage amateur searches would be to help prevent a family member or friend being the one to discover the remains of their loved one.

"No one should have that in their head," Stein said.

She also said she could not elaborate on the types of evidence she's been provided, except to say, "They are materials that would be consistent with a criminal investigation."

"We have been able to narrow areas of interest ... I need to make contact with the DA and figure out what they want to do," Stein said. "We might be reaching out, with the blessing of the DA's office, to nonprofit search and rescue groups and things of that nature, and we'll just go from there."

Stein has been in contact with state police involved in the investigation and praised their cooperation and assistance.

She said the circumstances of the case are somewhat unusual compared to others on which she's worked, considering a suspect has already been identified.

"It's unique in the sense ... that we have a fair certainty of who's involved in this, right from the beginning. It's also very helpful, because it gives us information we need to bring her home," she said.

Stein is in routine contact with the family and has been impressed by their resolve during the nearly four months since Ringer was last seen.

"Jo's family and friends are one of the strongest groups of people I have ever seen," she said. "(Savanah), is phenomenal. She is one of the most put-together, grounded 19-year-olds I've ever met."

Stein said anyone with information can do so anonymously via the CRUC website, www.thecruc.com, to Stein herself at sarah.stein120@gmail.com, or to state police or the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

"No piece of information is too small," she said. "Please reach out to somebody."

Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.


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