Father missing, 5-year-old daughter left alone

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2003

Police are asking for the public's help in finding a Juneau man who went missing earlier this week, leaving his 5-year-old daughter alone in their apartment for up to three days.

Thomas Everett Gardner, 42, was last seen walking on Douglas Highway in the Crow Hill area and headed toward the Douglas Bridge. Sgt. John Boltjes said a neighbor saw the man walking, either Sunday or Monday, but didn't think anything was unusual since Gardner often walked into town by himself.

Police were alerted Tuesday to the man's disappearance when a bus driver for the Head Start Program, who regularly picks up Gardner's daughter for preschool, phoned to ask why she wasn't at the bus stop. Gardner didn't answer the phone, but his daughter did, saying her father wasn't home.

"She doesn't have a firm concept of time," said Boltjes. "All she could really tell us was that she woke up one day, it was dark and her daddy wasn't there. She doesn't really know what day that was."

The girl's name was not released. Boltjes said she apparently fed and cared for herself in her father's absence.

She is in the Department of Family and Youth Services' custody today. Gardner's ex-wife was located in Anchorage, but police do not know if there are plans for the girl to join her.

Boltjes said Gardner did not work and associated with only a few friends. He also was on medication, but Boltjes declined to comment on what he was taking or the reason.

Police said Wednesday they used dogs to search the area around Gardner's home, attempting to gather leads, but found no trace of him. They also enlisted the help of the harbormaster who sent out two boats to search the channel and found nothing.

"We've run all the checks and there's really nothing more that we can do," Boltjes said. "You know if he wasn't dressed for this kind of weather when he went out the outcome is obvious. At this point we don't know whether he wandered away or purposely left."

Gardner may have been wearing blue jeans and a black jacket or heavier coat with a red liner. He is about 5-feet-5-inches tall and between 165 and 180 pounds. Anyone with information is asked to phone police at 586-0600.

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