Joanne Ringer: Still missing, still missed 3 months on
EASTHAMPTON — For the past three months, Joanne Ringer has been known to many as the missing woman from Clarksburg.
But to friends and family, she's still a mother. She's a biker and a mechanic. A chef and a model. And she's a friend who always provided an open door and a stocked refrigerator to anyone who was in need.
"Jo was immaculately beautiful, inside and out," said Teigh Brown, who said he's known Ringer for 25 years. "Heart, mind, body and soul, she was just a beautiful person."
Brown and Maurice Champagne, who said he's known Ringer for over a decade, spoke to a reporter Wednesday evening in Easthampton, where Ringer's abandoned car was found on March 6 — four days after she went missing. Friday marks three months since Ringer, 39, has been seen or heard from.
The car is believed to have been brought to Easthampton by Ringer's late husband, Charles "Chad" Reidy, who took his own life on April 7.
Reidy was later named the sole suspect in Ringer's disappearance by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, which said it now considers Ringer's disappearance a homicide. As of Thursday, her body had not yet been found.
The District Attorney's acknowledgment that Ringer is the potential victim of foul play "kind of drained all my hope," Brown said.
But he said the despair felt by friends and family is offset by the glimmer of possibility that Ringer may be somewhere safe, alive and well.
"I still do have one tiny shred of confidence that the phone is going to ring and it's going to be her, saying, 'Sorry that I put you guys through this, but I'm down here, or I'm here and I'm just collecting myself and I'm OK and I'll be home in a month or so,' " Brown said. "There's always that tiny shred of hope that phone call is going to come, but ..."
"In our eyes, she's still out there somewhere," Brown said. "Until we get total confirmation, she's coming home. ... And to have people refer to her as dead or murdered, it's killing us. It hurts us to the core, to have people not having faith that she is going to come home."
There have been few developments in the case since April 21, when the DA's office announced it believes Reidy is responsible for her death. On the same day, Reidy's ex-girlfriend Laura Reilly, of Easthampton, was arraigned on charges she allegedly lied to investigators about her and Reidy's whereabouts during the early days of Ringer's disappearance.
In the meantime, the pace of the investigation and the lack of new information has been frustrating, the men said Wednesday.
"They're not putting much out there at all," Champagne said of investigators. "We're just grasping at whatever we can."
Champagne said after attending Reilly's most recent appearance in Northern Berkshire District Court, he, Brown and others visited the Clarksburg home where Ringer and Reilly lived.
The men said they were puzzled by the request by Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless that people not conduct their own searches for Ringer's body.
"Why were they so adamant about not having a search party?" he asked. "Why are they so adamant about not letting us look around?"
"They're not telling us what they've searched, if they've searched," Brown added.
More frustration has come in the form of social media feuds and accusations being publicly bandied about, as well as allegations of "vile behavior," Brown said, including people allegedly ripping down Ringer's missing person flyers, which are still prevalent in Easthampton and the surrounding area.
"Her family sees this, her family reads this; we've seen it, we've read it, and we try to remain civil," Brown said. "We try remain positive and focused and not get pulled into the arguments."
Champagne said it was the same strong will that drew people to Ringer that also tended to make her reject help from those close to her.
He recalled a time when he offered to give Ringer a ride on his motorcycle when she needed a lift.
She told him, "I don't ride on the back on no man's bike," before he agreed to pick her up in his truck instead.
"She was just her own person," Champagne said. "She lived life the way she wanted and didn't care what people thought."
Following her disappearance, information surfaced that Ringer had been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Reidy, including instances where he throttled her and once put a gun to her head, the men said.
"No matter how much we tried to help, no matter how much help we offered her, her strong will just kept on saying, 'I can take care of it, guys. I thank you, I love you, but I can take care of it,' " Brown said.
Champagne said the last time he saw Ringer, about two weeks before she went missing, he asked her if she was alright. "She said, 'For now.' "
Despite the continued passage of time and the withering hope that Ringer may still be alive, both men still cling to the notion she may have simply left the area for her own safety and peace of mind.
Champagne said her disappearance wouldn't make much sense "unless she just needed to get away."
"She knows so many people across the country, she could have just crashed at somebody's house where she feels safe. I wouldn't put it past her to actually be in a cabin somewhere in the middle of the woods, just with an old friend that she trusts, that nobody else knows," Brown said. "That's kind of what I'm hoping for right now ... that she's somewhere out, in the wild, just becoming Jo again."
"Hopefully she'll show up and all this will end and we can try to get some normalcy back in our lives," Brown said, "but until then, any information we can (get) as far as the investigation is going, we would appreciate, because being left in the dark like this is driving us crazy."
A candlelight vigil for Ringer is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 21 in Millside Park in Easthampton.
Champagne said if he could get a message to Ringer, it would simply be "Just come home, Jo."
"We would understand; there's certainly good cause for her to want to leave," Champagne said. "We just want her home. My heart's broken. I've shed a lot of tears."
"She's missed; she's loved," Brown said "And, there's time to be upset with her later. Just come home."
Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.
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