HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WDTN) – Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck says the destruction that occurred during the tornado outbreak made it especially difficult for search crews to find the body of missing Harrison Township woman Catherine Clayburn:
Around 7:30 pm Tuesday, EquuSearch, a national organization specialized in locating missing persons, was near Shiloh Drive and Blue Ridge Drive looking for 71-year-old Clayburn. She had gone missing on Memorial Day, only a few hours before the tornadoes hit.
While searching this area, they noticed a sharp drop-off between 75 and 85 feet from the property line down to a creek below connected to the Stillwater River. It was there that they saw what appeared to be a body covered by piles of brush and debris.
Once the Sheriff’s Office was notified, Fire and EMS crews were called, and eventually, the Coroner’s Office.
Wednesday, the Coroner positively identified the remains as Clayburn’s.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted by any means. We really wanted to be able to tell the family, who was great throughout this, that we had found a wife, mother, alive, and we were bringing her back. Unfortunately, we were not able to,” said Sheriff Streck.
Her cause of death has not been announced. It is unclear at this time if she fell from the drop-off point before the storms hit, or if the tornadoes played a part in her death in any way.
Clayburn suffered from dementia and was not able to verbally communicate.
Authorities say the storm damage left behind by the tornado outbreak made it especially difficult to find her, and it was not until the waters receded in the creek area that crews were able to see her.
“Once the storms went through, there were areas in that part of the township that were highly damaged and had a lot of destruction throughout. Deputies once again began searching and by this time, they were searching for anyone who may have been injured or worse, killed, during the storm,” says Sheriff Streck.
He said that according to family, she would often wander off from her nearby home on East Floyd Avenue. Usually, she would walk along the same route in the neighborhood and could easily be located, but her family called the Sheriff’s Office when they were unable to find her just after 6 pm on May 27.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office utilized their drones, Box 21’s boats, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s helicopter throughout their search.