New officers join search for missing woman

Nearly 13 years ago, a Shawano woman who lived a quiet and mostly reclusive life in the city bought a Greyhound bus ticket and, presumably, took the morning bus to Green Bay.

That is the last thing anyone has been able to confirm about Carmen Maria Owens, who was 41 at the time and has not been heard from since.

Though considered a cold case now, it is still an open one for the Shawano Police Department. Since Nov. 2, 1998, when Owens disappeared, it has been handed down to a new generation of officers.

Officer Heidi Thaves, along with Officer Noah Bunt, are the latest to look into the case, even though there are no new leads to investigate.

“Officer Bunt and I went through the case file with a fine-tooth comb, trying to get any additional leads,” Thaves said.

But at this point, there are only dead ends and little more than a hope that renewed publicity will result in somebody bringing forward some new information.

Owens had few friends when she lived in Shawano, according to police, and the only person here she was known to be close to was her mother, Verona Owens, who passed away in February 2009.

“I think she always hoped that Carmen was coming back,” Thaves said.

Carmen Owens was living on her own, not far from her mother, on Fifth Street before her disappearance.

She could typically be seen walking along Green Bay Street, going to the Pick ‘N Save or Kmart, or to the coffee shop. Police said she walked a lot, drank a lot of coffee and smoked frequently.

She also patronized the library, where her mother used to work. She was said to be an avid reader, but because technology has changed since 1998, there’s no record of what Owens might have been reading before she disappeared.

“There’s not a lot of information,” Thaves said.

Greyhound employees in Green Bay could not even say for certain she had gotten off the bus, Thaves said. Some of the buses leaving Shawano went on to Chicago and some to Upper Michigan, but it’s believed the morning bus that Owens presumably boarded went only as far as Green Bay.

Owens occasionally took trips to Green Bay with her mother and went to the downtown mall.

Shawano County Sheriff Randy Wright, who worked on the Owens case when he was with the Shawano Police Department, said it appeared Owens may have taken money out of her checking account to go shopping before she left.

There has been no activity in her checking account or any record of her Social Security number being used anywhere since she disappeared, Thaves said.

It’s unclear whether Owens may have purchased a one-way or round-trip bus ticket, but she had no luggage and carried nothing but a brown purse.

Also, medications that she required had been left at home.

Police have not said what her medical diagnosis was, but Owens apparently suffered from some type of mental health problem.

In 2004, Owens’ mother established the Carmen Maria Owens Fund within the Shawano Area Community Fund, providing grants or scholarships that address mental health issues.

“There was some mental health (issue),” Thaves said. “She required medication.”

Other items found at Owens’ home only add to the mystery, including words or names written on an envelope, “Ashthanoth, Athanor, Carmen Owens Farnam.”

Police speculate one possibility is that Owens had intended to use some combination of those names as an alias.

Police also found a notebook that listed apartments for rent in the Green Bay area and a map of Minnesota.

So far, none of the leads has led to Owens.

“It’s very frustrating,” Wright said. “She got on a bus and she’s gone.”

Wright had the Owens case for about four years — the second officer to take it over — until he was elected sheriff in 2006.

“I don’t think there’s ever a point that you stop working on it,” Wright said. “Every little thing you come across that might be a lead, you have to follow up on it. You can’t give up on those types of cases.”

Information about Owens and her disappearance has been entered into a number of law enforcement databases in the hopes of a possible match turning up someday. Even her DNA is on file, collected from her toothbrush, comb and cigarette butts in her apartment.

There are also plans to add Owens’ photo to decks of playing cards used by prison inmates. The cards feature photos of missing persons in the hopes that an inmate might have seen them or learned something about them from another inmate.

Fliers about Owens have also been sent to homeless shelters in Green Bay.

Networking avenues that weren’t around in 1998 are also being employed, such as Facebook and MySpace.

Several web sites post information about Owens and other missing persons. One of those is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System at <a href=""></a>.

Anyone who knew Owens or might have information that could help locate her can contact Thaves at the Shawano Police Department, 715-524-4545.

By Tim Ryan<br \> <a href=""></a><br \>
But no new leads in 1998 ‘cold case’
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