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Search and rescue team relieved over Goble discovery

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two years ago, when Sheila "Kathy" Goble first went missing, members of the West Virginia K-9 Search and Rescue team helped in the search.

They scoured about 60 acres in the area near the Crooked Creek exit of Interstate 64, where her silver 2004 Honda Pilot was found abandoned on the side of the highway.

With few clues to go on, they could find no trace of the 62-year-old woman.

So, last week, when police recovered Goble's remains in the backyard of a co-worker -- now charged with her death -- it meant closure for her family and friends, but also relief to the search team members who tried to find her.

"It is frustrating when we don't find anything, but I'm glad the family has closure now," Jeff Cunningham, the deputy chief operations officer for the search and rescue team, said of hearing the news of Goble's discovery.

Police say Charles March, 60, of Chesapeake, strangled Goble at his home, cut up her body and buried her in the backyard of his mobile home. He and Goble had worked together at Kelley's Mens Shop on Charleston's West Side for about 10 years. March ran the men's shoe department at the store for about 30 years.

During the team's initial search for Goble, her car already had been removed and taken into police custody. The team used a trailing dog, air-scent dog and a cadaver dog in the search. At the time, it was still considered a live search.

The search and rescue team scours areas where local law enforcement agencies ask for assistance. Without a reason to suspect March, police had no cause to direct them to his property in Chesapeake, and the team members did not search for her in that area.

"That's the only lead we had -- where she parked her car," Cunningham said. "They had no other tips on that poor lady at all."

Each week, the 35 search team members and their dogs train for situations just like the Goble case. Saturday, they gathered at Kanawha State Forest, but rain and lightning kept them from training.

Team members come from all occupations, from police officer and EMT to nurse, secretary and massage therapist. Likewise, all breeds of dogs can be search and rescue K-9s.

The team, which includes volunteers from all over West Virginia, is frequently called in to help search for missing persons or for the remains of a person who was killed. Sometimes, the outcomes are positive. Recently, they were called to search for a missing 11-year-old boy in St. Albans. He was quickly found sleeping in a car nearby, Cunningham said.

"[It was] short and sweet," he said. "It's really rewarding, especially when they're a positive outcome. The families are always very appreciative."

Many cases are grim, though. The team was recently called in to help search for the remains of Carol Rhim of Institute. Police say Nathaniel Roy Lawton, 54, of 107A Barron Drive in Institute, killed Rhim, cut her body up in a bathtub and later shot himself to death. Police found the woman's head and hands in the trunk of Lawton's car but couldn't find the rest of her body.

At first, the search and rescue team covered an 85-mile area near Jackson, Ohio, looking for her remains. Early in April, a State Road worker found a leg and foot believed to be Rhim's along U.S. 35 near the Putnam and Mason county border. The team members searched that area but did not find any more remains.

Even if a person isn't found alive, there is a rewarding aspect to finding the remains of missing people, Dana Rowsey, a field team member and a corporal with the Charleston Police Department, said.

"Ultimately, you're bringing closure to the family," Rowsey said. "With Goble, people didn't have that closure. Ultimately, [search team members] still bring some closure to the family. That's what they aim to do."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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