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Search for missing man yields no answers

Search crews from Columbia and Multnomah counties came up empty after staging aerial and ground searches on Wednesday, Jan. 23, for a 77-year-old man last seen in Columbia County and who has been missing for more than a month.

Sterling Blades, who lives on Northwest Logie Trail Road, went missing on Dec. 17 after visiting a friend who lives in Warren, a small unincorporated community five miles north of Scappoose.

'Multnomah County had their aircraft out and we were the ground crew, and nothing was observed,' said Columbia County Undersheriff Gerry Simmons. Searches in Washington County are also taking place.

A long stretch of overcast and windy weather had delayed an aerial search for Sterling prior to Wednesday's effort. Snow pack in the county's higher-elevation zones continues to hamper the search, Simmons said, and has prevented exploration of some of the more remote areas.

Simmons said the Columbia County Sheriff's Office has logged around 350 hours looking for Sterling, who was last seen driving a navy blue Dodge D20 pickup truck with the license number TBF-558.

A man and woman who live off on Turley Road in Warren have told police that they saw Sterling and his truck late in the afternoon on the day he went missing.

Gail Beveridge told investigators that she saw Sterling standing outside his truck on Church Road near Highway 30, and waved to him. Around an hour later, Gail's husband, Gary, gave Sterling directions for how to reach the Yankton area from Church Road. Yankton is located several miles west of St. Helens in an area bordered by thick forestland.

Beveridge said she learned of Sterling's disappearance after watching a television news report the day after Sterling was reported missing.

'I thought, my God, I saw that guy yesterday,' she said.

Beveridge said her husband spoke to Sterling around 4:30 p.m., which is close to sunset for that time of year.

Columbia County search and rescue workers intend to continue the search on a once-per-month basis, with the next scheduled for Feb. 9.

Sterling's wife, Beula Blades, 68, said the absence of answers and the unrelenting strain of dealing with her husband's disappearance are making her feel like she's losing control.

'I can't figure it out. I'm losing my mind,' she said, adding that she and other family members have are being plagued by bad dreams. 'My gut feeling anymore is that he's never going to be found. It's the nightmare of everybody.'

Anyone with information regarding Sterling's disappearance should call Det. Lee Gossen of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office at 503-251-2445, or the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at 503-366-4611.