A West Virginia woman disappeared almost a month ago after being seen with a man at a bar, leaving her family desperate for answers — and now police say they have identified a person of interest in the case.
Musician Gretchen Fleming, 27, was last seen early Dec. 4 at the My Way Lounge & Restaurant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, NBC News reported.
Witnesses at the bar claimed she was with an “older man” with white hair, The US Sun reported.
Friends told the outlet that Fleming was “extremely intoxicated” and had lost her purse before she went missing.
Her family didn’t report her missing to police until more than a week later, on Dec. 12, because it wasn’t unusual for her to not be in touch with them for several days, her longtime friend Jake Grim said.
“The investigation, right from the start, lost 10 days,” Grim told “Dateline.” “I’m 28 years old and I don’t talk to my parents every day, you know? So, I mean, it happens.”
On Wednesday, Parkersburg Police Chief Matthew Board told the News and Sentinel that investigators have developed a person of interest in the disturbing case.
He said he could not release the person’s name yet, but that investigators had identified “somebody she was seen with at the My Way Lounge” late Dec. 3 or early Dec. 4.
Authorities believe the person may have left the watering hole with Fleming, Board added.
He said the person of interest was developed with the assistance of owners, staff and patrons at the My Way Lounge & Restaurant.
“Everybody at that location has been extremely cooperative with the police from the onset of the investigation,” Board told the outlet.
“Detectives are still working on this around the clock,” the chief said, adding that search warrants were executed about two weeks ago, though no one was arrested.
Grim told “Dateline” that it was unclear what took place at the bar at the time of Fleming’s disappearance.
“We haven’t seen any camera footage of anything. She was at multiple spots. You know, the last place she was seen to everyone was the My Way,” he said.
“It seems like she was going to multiple different places that night,” Grim added, but no one knows what she was wearing or how she got from place to place.
Her father, David Fleming, expressed his appreciation to the community and police for their efforts and support during the ordeal, NBC News reported.
David also told “Dateline” that the family is asking people not to speculate about his daughter’s disappearance.
Grim said the speculation has taken its toll.
“You love social media and you hate it,” he told Dateline. “There’s so many things that have been spun around and people are not realizing her family is reading this stuff and it breaks my heart because they’re amazing people.”
The young man described Fleming’s quirky personality.
“She has this way about her. Once you meet her, you’re kind of just infatuated with her because she’s not like everyone else,” he said.
“Gretchen didn’t dress anything like everybody else. She’s always made a statement. She’s so creative,” Grim said.
“Music is a big part of who she is. She’s done all these different things. She’s traveled, she’s very well spoken, she used to be a writer and still does write,” he added.
On Dec. 12, Parkersburg police posted a message on Facebook about her disappearance.
“If you have any information on the current whereabouts of Gretchen Fleming, 27 of Vienna please contact Detective J.M. Zimmerman,” the department wrote, without providing any details about the mysterious case.
Grim told “Dateline” that he trusts Zimmerman to help locate Fleming.
“I grew up with his wife, who also grew up with me and Gretchen. We all did student council together,” he said. “I just feel like things happen for a reason and I feel like he’s on this case for a reason.”
Grim said some people in the community have offered to organize search parties, but that the family wants police to handle the searches for now.
“We need to let the police do their job. We don’t want to tamper with any future evidence,” he said.
“Dateline” spoke with Gretchen’s dad on Friday, the day before Gretchen’s 28th birthday.
“We love her. Something happened to her. I don’t know what to say,” David said. “Tomorrow would be her 28th birthday, which will be hard. She’s an amazing little girl. I just want her home.”
Fleming was described as being between 5-foot and 5-foot-2, and weighing 100 to 120 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes.