September 21, 2010

Missing man's sister on kidnapped woman: 'You feel so bad'

By Jack Thurston

It's been 10 days since a Northeast Kingdom woman was reported missing, and still no sign of her. Police say they believe Pat O'Hagan, 78, was abducted from her home.

Tuesday, Vermont State Police refused to answer whether they are terming the case of the popular Sheffield grandmother a "search" or a "recovery effort" at this point. But the O'Hagan mystery has the family of another missing person wondering if they will ever find closure themselves. "I just can't close that door," Amy Currier said.

Currier is optimistic her brother may still walk back into her life. "It's like a piece of you is missing. You'll never be whole again until you find out what happened," she said.

Donnie Messier was last seen in October 2006 leaving a party in Waitsfield. Police said he may have been suicidal; he had just been through a breakup. But Currier remembers he was laughing again and getting back to his old self. "It's just so out of character for him to be out of touch with his family," Currier said.

Now the search for kidnapped Sheffield grandmother Pat O'Hagan is opening old wounds for Amy Currier. "It brings back a lot of the memories, and you feel so bad for that family," Currier said.

Currier has found comfort online; setting up Facebook and MySpace pages for Donnie Messier, hoping they may inspire new tips in the case. "When we're having a sad day we can go and look through the pictures," she said.

The web has also created a club no one wants to be a member of: connecting Currier to loved ones of other people who disappeared in our region, including Brianna Maitland, the 17-year-old whose abandoned car in Montgomery led police to believe she's a crime victim, and Massachusetts nursing student Maura Murray, who vanished after a minor car crash in Woodsville, N.H.

"A number of people tell you they're sorry and they feel your loss, but I don't think you can truly understand it until you've lived it," Currier said.

Pat O'Hagan's large family has said they're leaning on each other for support and turning to their faith. "I'm sure she knows the people who love her and her parish family are praying for her; that she's not alone in this," said Father Pat Forman of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church.

"Father Pat was over last night. He had a good relationship with my mom, so we said a few prayers, and had a few chuckles. We needed it," said Matt O'Hagan, the missing woman's son.

Amy Currier hopes the O'Hagans don't go as long without their mom as she has without her brother. "You know what they're going through: the not knowing, the what-ifs, the kicking yourself in the rear for not calling sooner, or 'Why didn't I notice this?' 'Maybe If I'd have gone and done this differently.' It's just all the what-ifs and questions that are up in the air. It's hard to get past," she said.

Currier wants Vermonters to check out the state's missing persons page and call police with tips, no matter how small they seem, for her case, the O'Hagan investigation, or any mystery on the site.

As for Pat O'Hagan, state police say they are not entertaining any more questions from reporters at this point and will reach out to news organizations when they have something substantial to pass along. Vermont State Police are offering a $5,000 cash reward for significant information in the case. They're asking the public to call them with tips at the barracks in St. Johnsbury at 802-748-3111 or the State Police Crime Information Tip Line at 802-241-5355.