Nearly seven weeks after she went missing, searchers combed the woods along the Chester Creek Trail on Monday in a new effort to find Letitia Ann Baxter, an Anchorage woman who was last seen walking away from her sister's house near downtown on a sunny afternoon.
Very little is known about what might have happened to the lifelong Anchorage resident, last seen on Aug. 3.
Police have mounted small searches for the 63-year-old along the Chester Creek trail system, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Anita Shell, turning up nothing. No leads have come in over the police CrimeStoppers tip line. And nothing suggests that she was a victim of a crime, said police detective Slawomir Markiewicz.
Baxter "flat-out disappeared," said Shell.
What police do know, said Markiewicz, is that Letitia Baxter was a woman of routines. One of them was walking on Anchorage's trail system, especially the Chester Creek trail.
"She liked using trails," he said. "That's why the focus is there."
Monday's effort, which included 16 people and four dogs, was led by the APD's volunteer Auxiliary Search Team and Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs. Searchers plan to canvass trail areas between Goose Lake and Cook Inlet arm-to-arm.
Baxter's disappearance is suspicious because she has no history of going missing and her family believes she would get in touch if she was leaving the area, Shell said.
"We fear something has happened to her," she said.
Baxter, a slim, athletic woman who once drove to South America and, in the 1980s, owned a farm in Hawaii, was street-smart and deeply familiar with Anchorage's urban greenbelts, according to her family. A world-traveler, Baxter always made Anchorage her home base, said her brother-in-law Bill Cross. Her parents, Ruth and Von Baxter, homesteaded in Anchorage in the 1940s. Baxter Road, Baxter Bog and Baxter Elementary are named after the family.
Baxter would often walk or ski the roughly two miles between her home in the 2300 block of Eagle Street in the North Star neighborhood and her younger sister's home near the downtown Delaney Park Strip. On the sunny afternoon of August 3, she had stopped by to visit her sister and brother-in-law as she did once or twice a week, Cross said.
They chatted about "inconsequential things," he said, perhaps their gardens.
It was such a routine visit that both have had a hard time recalling what Baxter was wearing at the time.
"What top she was wearing is something my wife has thought quite deeply about," he said.
Baxter left around 1:15 p.m. after telling her sister she had plans to walk a few blocks downtown for some errands.
She hasn't been seen or heard from since.
While Cross has said that Baxter may have been suffering from depression, he doesn't think she wanted to harm herself. She was active and healthy and had been with her boyfriend for more than 20 years. They hiked to places like Flattop and traveled Outside to visit state parks. She worked "when she needed to" for a temp agency on the North Slope, he said, but wasn't working at the time.
"She had a wonderful lifestyle," Cross said.
Seven weeks on, family members say they are grateful to searchers but adjusting to a "certain grim awareness" of how long Baxter has been gone. They hear stories of people who suddenly surface after weeks or months missing that stoke what Cross calls a "golden ember of hope."
"We hope we can have some kind of a fabulous story like that, too," Cross said.
Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4344.Photos: Search for Letitia Ann Baxter
By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News