Alaska News

‘It’s like she vanished into thin air’: Search continues for Homer woman

Anesha Murnane

Thirteen minutes after noon on Oct. 17, Anesha Murnane walked out the door of her downtown Homer apartment wearing a blue windbreaker and jeans, a purse slung over her shoulder.

Surveillance video captured her departure. The shy homebody had a 1 p.m. appointment at a medical clinic about a mile away.

But Murnane, 38, never arrived at that appointment. She hasn’t been seen since.

“It’s like she vanished into thin air,” said her mother, Sara Berg of Homer.

Ten days after she was last seen, a statewide search continues for the missing Homer woman, with frustratingly few clues to go on.

The Homer Police Department has searched for Murnane on the ground and using a helicopter and scent-detection dogs, said police lieutenant Ryan Browning. Police have combed through her cell phone records, financial records and social media interactions.

The department is working on the case “nonstop” but knows little about what happened to Murnane, Browning said.

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“Man, we have got nothing,” he said

The current working theory is that Murnane entered a car somewhere in downtown Homer, though it isn’t clear exactly when, according to Browning.

Multiple trained scent-detection dogs that searched the area stopped at the same spot -- indicating a car pickup, he said.

Murnane is considered missing and at risk, according to a Silver Alert, issued for missing and vulnerable adults. There’s no evidence that Murnane was suicidal or trying to disappear on purpose, Browning said.

Part of what’s so concerning is how unusual it would be for Murnane — who doesn’t drive — to get into a car with someone.

“She is able to care for herself,” Browning said. “But this is so far outside any normal pattern of behavior for her.”

UPDATE 10/23. This is the last image of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane leaving her residence on Thursday October 17th at...

Posted by Homer Police Department on Wednesday, October 23, 2019

UPDATE 10/24 5 pm. HPD officers are finishing up their review of security camera footage today, and so far have not...

Posted by Homer Police Department on Thursday, October 24, 2019

“She was happy, moving forward with her life”

Anesha Murnane was born and raised in Homer, her mother said.

She left Alaska to study Montessori early childhood education, and spent time living in Oregon and Washington and traveling abroad to Australia and Honduras.

Five years ago, while living out-of-state, Murnane experienced a health crisis that led to a psychological breakdown.

“She had a stressful life experience, and went into pretty severe mania,” her mother said.

Her parents moved her back to Homer for treatment. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Berg said.

In recent years, Murnane had been living a quiet life in a housing complex near Main Street and Lee Drive, just north of Homer’s busy commercial main drag, Pioneer Avenue.

She’d been putting her life back together, and it seemed to be working: Her mental health had been stable and she was talking about moving out of assisted-living and looking for a job, Berg said.

Murnane had plans to visit her mother in Mexico, where she spends her winters, in November.

Her family believes her disappearance is not related to her history of mental illness. They see no evidence she was a danger to herself, or entering a manic state.

“She was doing fabulous. Happy, moving forward with her life,” Berg said.

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They can’t imagine Murnane, known by many in Homer by her childhood nickname “Duffy," getting into a car with someone she didn’t know very well.

Berg described her daughter as shy, deliberate, retiring and routine-oriented.

“She likes to cook and sew and just be home. She is not a risk-taker. She is not a partygoer, or a drug-doer. She is a quiet, sedate, sweet girl.”

Berg believes her daughter has been abducted and is being held somewhere against her will.

“I think someone took her. And I don’t know why they took her,” she said.

Having her daughter missing is “hell,” she said. “It has been horrible. All we did at first was stand around here and cry, email, cry some more.”

Murnane’s friends and family want people all over Alaska to be on the lookout for her: She is 5’11, weighs about 160 pounds and has blue eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information on Murnane can call the Homer Police Department at 907-235-3150 or Silver Alert hotline at 855-745-8799.


Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a reporter who covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at mtheriault@adn.com.

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