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Missing Mo. trooper's body found

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January 13, 2012

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Missing Mo. trooper's body found

Officer Down: Fred Guthrie Jr. - [Big Lake, Missouri]

By Kim Norvell
St. Joseph News-Press

BIG LAKE, Mo. — The body of a state trooper missing for more than six months was recovered Thursday.

Fred Guthrie Jr.'s body was recovered around 2 p.m. Thursday by crews working to rebuild the highway where his abandoned truck and the body of his K-9 partner, Reed, were found.

"It is a good day for the Guthrie family," said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon, spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "It's a relief and kind of a joyous day for us, because we were able to locate him for the family.

"It's still very sad, but it's something we've been after for a long time. We've worked a lot of hours up there, which speaks highly of our organization — we don't leave anyone behind."

Mr. Guthrie, who went missing with Reed while working flood duty on Aug. 1, was found just south of the intersection of Missouri Highways 118 and 111, where troopers had originally focused their search efforts.

Mr. Lyon said the trooper was unearthed from "several feet" of sand by a crew from Hill Brothers Construction, a company owned by the family's friend and next-door neighbor. The crew had been contracted by the Missouri Department of Transportation to fill a four-acre gap in Missouri Highway 111 with silt from nearly 44,000 acres of flooded farmland.

Mr. Lyon said there was a sense of "excitement" that came with the discovery, mainly for the closure it will bring to Mr. Guthrie's family when they can finally bury their loved one. At a memorial service on Dec. 14, a casket was buried that held memorabilia of the trooper, as well as the cremated remains of Reed, who was a five- year veteran of the patrol.

Final burial plans for Mr. Guthrie have yet to be determined, however, as his body will be sent to a medical examiner for an autopsy.

"They're treating this as any other death investigation. I'm sure there will be an attempt to learn how or when or why he went there," Mr. Lyon said. "The important thing is we found him."

Efforts to find the missing trooper began with dive teams and sonar equipment when the area was still covered in floodwaters. In November, crews focused on the massive hole with heavy machinery and cadaver dogs.

The search was significantly scaled back on Nov. 14, but troopers conducted various foot searches and continued to stay on site while construction crews began their work.

Mr. Guthrie was praised in a statement by Gov. Jay Nixon; Department of Public Safety Director Jerry Lee; and director of the Patrol, Col. Ron Replogle. Officials said the discovery of the trooper's body will bring "closure and comfort to the family, community, and members of the Patrol."

"Trooper Fred Guthrie made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the people of Missouri, protecting them during the historic flooding that ravaged the northwest part of our state," Mr. Nixon said in a statement. "We honor the memory of this courageous law enforcement officer, and our prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues as they mourn his loss."

Mr. Guthrie was a combined 17-year veteran of the Missouri State Water Patrol and Missouri State Highway Patrol, serving Troop A in Platte City. He was a decorated officer who received, among other awards, the Medal of Valor for his heroic rescue of a woman in risk of drowning at Smithville Lake.

Copyright 2012 St. Joseph News-Press

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