LEE — John Siok headed for Pittsfield on that Sunday morning, passing the trailhead at Janet Longcope Park, a 46-acre nature preserve off Church Street in and around which he’s hunted and hiked his entire life.
The small dirt parking area next to the trailhead was empty.
On his way back home at around noon, he noticed one car there — a black Subaru with New York plates. He wondered why anyone would decide to walk the loop that returns to the trailhead amid such winds, rain and snow. March 27 was the kind of day when branches cracked off limbs, said Siok, who lives just up the street.
Two days later, on Tuesday, he and his wife Kathie Siok passed the park again. The Subaru was still there. He decided to investigate.
“It just didn’t look right,” he said this week, standing outside his home, near where the street meets Route 102 in South Lee. “It looked like somebody dumped it there.”
He and Kathie approached the car and looked inside. A few articles of clothing, a small box of what appeared to be film CDs, a pair of shoes.
In fact, the car’s presence there appeared so ominous that they decided to try the door. Siok used the sleeve of his sweater on the handle because “I didn’t want my fingerprints on it.”
He found it unlocked.
Feeling something was wrong, Siok dialed 911. The rest is a story that continues to grip this community and region.
Sunday was the last that anyone saw or heard from Meghan Marohn, 42, of Delmar, N.Y. She checked into the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge the Saturday night before Siok saw her car.
Marohn has taught English at the Shaker High School in Latham, N.Y., for the last three years. She is a lover of poetry and the earth, a passionate teacher, social and environmental activist.
Now approaching the two-week mark since anyone last heard from Marohn, police and family are still working a parallel search operation and investigation, said Lee Police Chief Craig DeSantis, speaking to The Eagle on Thursday at the station on Main Street. Her disappearance is still being treated as a missing persons case, and there is no evidence to suspect foul play, he added.
As DeSantis speaks, Marohn’s brother, Peter Naple, is on his way from Northville, a suburb of Albany, to meet with police for a routine update. Naple was unable Thursday to speak to The Eagle.
‘Nothing ever happens here’
People who live on Church Street are unsettled and suspicious, despite DeSantis’ reassurances.
Search and rescue teams immediately poured into the area beginning Tuesday, combing a forest residents and police describe as “thick.” Neighbors who before this had rarely locked their doors found the area teeming with local and state detectives, firefighters, helicopters and drones.
Their neighborhood and the woods that border it went into a computerized mapping and tracking grid. Sonar pulsed through a privately owned pond. Divers went in to comb the bottom, and K-9 units sniffed around it, DeSantis said.
The search continues.
On Wednesday afternoon, Siok is playing catch with his grandson in his front yard. He speaks quietly about what troubles him: the last “ping” from Marohn’s phone came from across Church Street from the Longcope trailhead, where there are homes and private property. “Why would she be over there?” he said.
Traffic on Church Street is fairly steady and swift, Siok points out as cars go by. People use it as a cut-through to get to Pittsfield. Surely someone saw her.
He worries a little about his grandchildren now. Siok and other neighbors can’t help but wonder about the possibility of foul play or “someone preying on women.”
Siok, 71, grew up in the house next door to where he now lives. The street up the road is bisected by the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Further north where Church Street turns to West Road, the Mass Pike crosses over near the Lee Service Plaza.
His son and family live closer to Longcope Park, and the teams had initially used his son’s property as a staging area. Siok’s grandson, 8, lives there.
The boy leans against a tree, eyes wide. He knows the available facts, he says. Those include Marohn’s height (5 feet, 6 inches) and weight (120 pounds). She is a teacher, he says.
No one has ever gone missing around here, Siok adds.
“If they did, they were found,” he said. “I just wish we could do more to find her. It must be so hard on the family.”
Closer to Longcope Park, two houses are under construction and workers are laying the foundation for another. Given the situation, it has occurred to Siok that more strangers than usual are passing through.
Across from the trailhead, a contractor who lives up the road has watched the search effort with amazement.
“It’s been crazy,” he said, not wanting his name published.
He recalled seeing Marohn’s car Monday morning, but did not regard it as suspicious because he isn’t at the site on Sundays.
Nancy and Jeffrey Simmons live across the street from Siok, and next to the South Lee Post Office and fire station. The fenced-in South Lee Playground is on the corner.
The couple installed surveillance cameras several days ago in response to Marohn’s disappearance. They’re worried about safety for the first time since they moved here in 1983.
“We’ve kind of let our guard down,” Jeffrey Simmons said, having stepped outside to get the newspaper.
“We hardly ever lock our doors,” said Nancy Simmons, who at that moment was receiving texts from her daughter saying someone is connecting Marohn’s disappearance to the other missing women. “Nothing ever happens here. It’s a safe neighborhood.”
She admits her imagination is darkly stirred of late, owing perhaps to too many “detective shows.”
“It makes your mind kind of funny,” she said, as Lee Fire Chief Ryan Brown pulls a trailer up to the fire station next door. He’s helping move an ATV to the area in preparation for brush fire season, since that is coming soon. He said personally he doesn’t think the community is in danger from what Nancy Simmons is concerned could be a “serial killer.”
What he does think is that the town is full of people who care what happens here.
“It’s our town,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”