At 12:13 PM on October 17, Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, a 38-year old Homer woman, was caught on video walking away from her apartment complex, presumably towards a doctor’s appointment she had at 1 PM. That video is the last known sighting of her. Murnane was living in the supportive housing apartment due to a recent illness that her family says she had nearly fully recovered from. Staff there notified the Homer Police Department that she was missing around 10AM on October 19.
The behavior of an Alaska State Trooper K-9 team brought in the next day led to the Homer Police Department’s current theory of the case: Murnane got into a vehicle near the intersection of Heath Street and Pioneer Avenue in downtown Homer. What kind of vehicle, who was driving, and whether or not she got in willingly is unknown.
According to Homer Police Lieutenant Ryan Browning, everything they have looked into so far over the last few weeks has brought no leads.
“Actually, I think what hasn’t been done is a shorter list than what we have.”
Browning said there have been multiple grid searches by aircraft and on foot , including a flight this week by an FBI Cessna using high-resolution cameras. They have viewed dozens of hours of video taken by cameras in the area. They have combed through all of her online connections they are aware of, and have given computers found in her apartment to the FBI’s crime lab.
“Tips, too, we’ve followed up.," said Browning. "I think we’ve had 72 phone call tips and probably forty or fifty email tips that we’ve looked into. Most of them are, you know, this guy kind of gives me the creeps or this guy doesn’t act right. We’re still following up and talking to people, but unfortunately none of those have led to any clues or any direction of anywhere to go for us either.”
The lack of concrete information has led to rumors that perhaps Murnane just wanted to disappear for a while, or that she had a boyfriend and took off on a trip.
“We’ve gotten a lot of those, most of which are people just kind of conjecturing or guessing on something. I know there was one that said she was across the bay that somebody put on social media. I followed up with that guy and it was just two dudes having a conversation, like, ‘well, maybe this’.”
While the Homer Police Department sifts through video, bank records, social media accounts, and computer files, Murnane’s family and friends, as well as community members eager to help, canvas the lower Kenai Peninsula, knocking on doors, distributing flyers, and collecting information that might become useful to the police.
Ed Berg is Murnane’s stepfather, and described his method for pinpointing possible areas for canvassers to focus on. “I spent a fair amount of time looking at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Parcel Viewer, which has very good aerial photography of the area, and then Google Earth as well. I was looking more for the small cabins at the end of the road kind of places that might not be occupied and you could hide somebody in pretty effectively.”
Tela O’Donnell Bacher, a childhood friend of the family, has been involved in the search and canvas efforts since the beginning. She said that, at this point, spreading awareness about Murnane’s disappearance is the most important thing they can do.
“We have a lot of social media presence, and we ask that everybody continue to share information that is coming out about Duffy, share the canvassing efforts, share the posters through social media, through their community organizations, maybe at churches or dance groups that they go to. We need to keep that torch burning, and that’s what’s going to give Duffy the best chance of coming home.”
Bacher said canvassers are asked to keep an eye out for things that seem unusual or not quite right.
“What we say to people is if there’s something you don’t feel comfortable checking out or you checked out and just feel like it needs a second look, we’re keeping track of all that information, putting it in a spreadsheet, and giving it to the police and keeping it ourselves.”
Lieutenant Browning said the police are following up on all these leads, and he stressed that even seemingly insignificant bits of information about the day Duffy went missing or the days afterward could turn out to be useful.
“If anybody has anything that they thought was just out of place or strange that day, absolutely call us, because we want to make sure that we turn over every stone and rock we can in this case, which is what we’ve been doing. And we keep winding up with not a whole lot, so anything could be helpful.”
Murnane’s family and friends are organizing another canvas for this Sunday in Anchor Point. Volunteers are asked to meet in the parking lot of Chapman Elementary School at 1pm. More information about the canvas efforts can be found at the Facebook page “Bring Duffy Home.” The Homer Police Department can be reached at (907)235-3150. Anonymous tips may be called into Kenai Peninsula Crimestoppers at (907)283-8477.