The Caledonian-Record

May 21, 2004

Another Person Reported Missing - Man Fails To Return From Walk

By Gary E. Lindsley

A 24-year-old man is the fourth person to be reported missing since the beginning of this year in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the North Country of New Hampshire.

Matthew Harris, a coordinator of a meditation course at Karme Choling in Barnet, was last seen leaving the Buddhist meditation retreat at 3 p.m. Tuesday. He had a walking stick and a day pack.

Officials at Karme Choling reported Harris missing at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

State police Sgt. Robert Clark doesn't believe there is any connection to the disappearance of three other people.

Another 24-year-old man, Timothy Young of Glover, Vt., was the first to be reported missing. Glover, who is 6 feet tall, weighs 180 pounds and has blond hair, was last seen Jan. 20.

On Feb. 9, 21-year-old University of Massachusetts at Amherst nursing student Maura Murray disappeared after being involved in a minor one-car accident on Route 112 in the town of Haverhill, N.H.

She is a 5-foot, 7-inch brunette, weighs 115 pounds and has blue eyes.

Another young woman, 17-year-old Brianna Maitland of Sheldon, Vt., hasn't been seen since she clocked out of work at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery around 11:20 the night of March 19.

Maitland has medium dark brown hair, hazel eyes, weighs about 105-110 pounds and is 5 feet 4 inches tall.

Although a missing person report has been filed on Harris, Clark does not believe he fits in the missing person category.

Clark said Harris has departed for areas unknown without telling anybody in the past. He does not believe Harris' disappearance is connected in any way to those of Young, Murray and Maitland.

"He is a free-spirited traveler," he said. "You can't lump him in with the others. He may not know he is (listed as) missing. He has a history of traveling the world while following different religious organizations."

Clark said during 2001-02, Harris took off without telling anybody where he was going. He was found in the Amazon in Peru emaciated, weighing only 82 pounds.

Then, from November 2003 to February 2004, he went to Scotland, following a religious sect.

"It's not like a 14-year-old girl who lives next to me and does not show up for work," Clark said as an example. "She's a missing person. That scenario is different from this."

State police have issued a bulletin to all police agencies in New England to be on the lookout for Harris.

If a police officer spots Harris, he or she is to ensure Harris is OK. The police officer is then supposed to contact Clark.

"He has a right to (go anywhere he wants)," Clark said. "He has a right not to have police following him. This is completely, completely different than the other three. This is a kid with a history (of taking off)."

Harris' father, Paul, doesn't agree.

He said when Matthew took off for the Amazon, he had let him and his wife, Anne, know. The same was the case when he went to Scotland.

"He had told us he was going to the Amazon," Harris said. "He called and told us he was going on a slow boat down the Amazon and we wouldn't hear from him four or five weeks."

When the five weeks had come and gone and they hadn't heard anything, the Harrises became concerned. Through the help of a shortwave radio operator, they learned he was in a Peruvian village and in bad shape.

Harris said Matthew went with the head of Karme Choling, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, to Scotland for about three months.

"It's sort of like being asked by the pope to be his assistant," Harris said.

His son, he said, is very learned and intelligent. "He is very generous and outgoing," he said. "We (once) gave him a watch. We asked him several months later how he liked his watch. He said he had given it to someone who needed it more."

Harris had praise for Karme Choling. "They are a terrific organization and they have treated Matt fantastically well. This is very out of character for him."

Founded in 1970 by ChÜgyam Trungpa Rinpoche, KarmÉ ChÜling offers year-round meditation retreats and yoga retreats.

Matthew, according to his father, left behind his passport, clothes and study materials.

Josh Silberstein, the retreat's health and well-being director, said Matthew had worked at Karme Choling for 21/2 years until October 2003.

Silberstein said Matthew had returned in February to work as coordinator of a meditation program.

He said Matthew was last seen by Bill Brauer, Karme Choling's director. "It's not uncommon for people to go for a walk," Silberstein said. "So, Director Brauer did not think anything about it."

Like Matthew's father, Silberstein said the 24-year-old's disappearance is out of character.

When Matthew did not show up for dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Silberstein was notified. "Then, we did an exhaustive search of the land," he said, which consists of 675 acres of fields, forest and hills.

The search ran from 7:15 to 10:30 Tuesday night. Then, it resumed at 10:30 Wednesday morning. The search of the property ended about 12:30 p.m.

Then, members of Karme Choling drove about 20 miles south and north on Interstate 91. They also searched sections of Route 5.

When 3 p.m. Wednesday arrived, and Matthew had not returned, Silberstein said state police were notified.

Silberstein said Matthew did not appear to be despondent or depressed any more than anyone else, until the day he disappeared. "After lunch, it was noticed he was more erratic," he said. "His demeanor changed. He was not there ... he was off thinking about something. He was not as interactive as he normally was."

Matthew is fluent in Spanish and can speak some French and Italian. He also knows sign language.

He is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs 175 pounds, has blond, close cropped hair, and has a red and blue chain-like tattoo around his left arm. He also wears glasses.

Anyone with information about Matthew's whereabouts are asked to call state police at 802-748-3111.