Volunteers join family in search for alumna

The family of missing Florida A&M University alumna Ali Gilmore, along with hundreds of volunteers, spent their weekend scouring the city of Tallahassee for any clue that could help determine the whereabouts of the missing 30-year-old.

Gilmore, who was four months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, vanished from her Tallahassee home Feb. 3.

Since then, her family has been desperately searching for any sign of where she might be.

“We’ve been (in Tallahassee) since Feb. 7 and we’re not going to stop searching,” said Tracy Smith, Gilmore’s older sister. “We’re not going to rest until we find Ali.”

Smith said that since her sister’s disappearance, everyday life has drastically changed.

“One thing that we do more now than we used to is to call each other every day. Every once in a while, someone will have a meltdown, and we’ll have to console them,” Smith said. “Since Feb. 3, it’s been devastating, but we try to keep pressing forward. Sometimes I’m in the grocery store and I see people that look like Ali, with their stature and their build, and I follow them into the store to see if it’s her.”

Prior to this weekend’s search, the family called several radio stations in town to solicit help.

“It’s real depressing knowing your loved one’s out there. Nobody knows anything, nobody saw anything, no information, no leads,” Smith said.

One student that showed up was Maya Rozier. The 25-year-old senior from Tallahassee has been following the case since it got exposure and decided to come out to help.

“I was hoping to find some type of clue or something that could maybe lead us to where Ali is,” Rozier said. “You know, help us find out what might have happened to her.”

Rozier was part of a team that searched through a wooded area of the city looking for anything that seemed out of place.

“Today I was with a team and we just went out looking for some kind of clues or garments, or rope, or things like that that could help us find her.” Rozier, an elementary education student, said her group found a few things such as underwear and a shoe, but these items didn’t belong to Gilmore.

In addition to student volunteers, a K-9 search and rescue team based in Tallahassee supported the search using cadaver dogs to comb the area for any sign of Gilmore.

Team members came from Columbus, Ga., as well as Fort Myers to do what they could to help.

“We’re here at the request of the Klaas Kids Foundation to help organize and coordinate the search,” said Pat Simmons, director of the Southeast K-9 Search and Rescue Team. “The number one objective is to support the family. The second objective is to assist TPD in clearing areas for clues.”

As part of the operation, volunteers performed a grid search of 25 different sectors of the city of Tallahassee, while others stayed at the Character Center to greet new volunteers and hand out food and water to those who had just come back from searching.

Theodore Pugh, a licensed private investigator, came from West Palm Beach, where Gilmore is from, to support the family and search for clues in her disappearance.

“In these type situations, until it’s been determined that it’s a crime, the families usually need a lot of help of any kind,” Pugh said.

Pugh, who is also a criminal psychologist, said that at some point, he would like to provide more assistance than just searching. “As this expands, I hope to provide some investigative expertise to work with the police to help eliminate some possibilities and suspects.”

Pugh said that as a private citizen, he will not be subject to some of the same time and manpower limitations as the police when it comes to finding Gilmore.

The Gilmore family hopes that, thanks to volunteers like Pugh, their search will soon come to an end.

“Without the community, it’s just our family and our family is more than 800 miles away. This is where she chose to establish herself, so we need Tallahassee, her adopted family,” Smith said. “She impacted not only our lives, but the community as well.”

Contact Sidney Wright IV at thefamuaneditor@hotmail.com