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Alaska News

Police, community still searching for answers in Nome woman’s disappearance

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: September 16, 2020
  • Published September 16, 2020

Florence Okpealuk of Nome. (Photo courtesy Nome Police Department)

More than two weeks after 33-year-old Florence Okpealuk disappeared from a Nome beach, the community is still aching for answers.

Okpealuk’s family reported her missing on Aug. 31. She was last seen in the early hours of the day before at the West Beach, police said.

“Our community is hurting, and we are doing everything we can to locate Florence,” said Deputy Chief Robert Pruckner.

Search efforts have included K-9 searches, aerial searches using planes and underwater drones deployed in nearby ponds. People also searched for Okpealuk by boat, Pruckner said.

Pruckner did not say whether police believe foul play is involved in Okpealuk’s disappearance. FBI spokeswoman Chloe Martin said investigators do not currently believe there is a threat to the community.

The Nome Police Department reached out to the FBI for technical assistance early on in the investigation, and Pruckner said six agents came to Nome for about a week to help with the case. Martin said it’s common for the FBI to assist smaller departments when needed.

The FBI agents returned to Anchorage on Wednesday to complete technical analysis of materials gathered in Nome, Martin said.

About 40 people spent more than three hours combing heavy brush around Nome Saturday, searching for Florence Okpealuk (Photo from the Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Nome police are leading the investigation, but "the FBI stands ready to return to Nome as the investigation develops and in pursuit of any new leads that may arise,” she said.

The community has organized two large searches since Okpealuk’s disappearance, Pruckner said. Many people have also set out in smaller groups to comb through the area, Martin said.

“I was heartened by that,” Martin said. “People there just really want to find Flo.”

Investigators have talked with friends, family and others from the community who they believed may have information. Martin said anyone who may know something is urged to contact the Nome Police Department at 907-443-5262.

“This is somebody’s daughter, this is somebody’s sister. Flo is a mother and she’s part of the community,” Martin said. “This is somebody who the city of Nome and the FBI — we all want to find her.”

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