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Searchers comb Clackamas County

Search for missing Wilsonville woman continues at sites around the county, but sonar and divers turn up no leads
by: patrick sherman, Detective Ken Link (foreground) and Deputy Doug Olsen watch a live video feed from the bottom of the Willamette, hoping to catch site of Kline’s car.

The painstaking search for 80-year-old Dena Kline of Wilsonville continued throughout Clackamas County last week, with sheriff's deputies descending into the frigid, muddy waters of the Willamette while volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol scoured the region from the skies.

'It's real frustrating, just in that a 1990 teal Honda with Idaho plates doesn't just disappear,' said Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Detective Ken Link, describing Kline's vehicle. 'We've had potential sightings from as far away as northern Washington out to the Oregon Coast.'

Kline vanished on the morning of Feb. 24, failing to appear for an appointment at Meridian Park Hospital. Suffering from athsma and undergoing treatment for cancer, she has no history of dementia. The day before, she was stopped twice by police in Newberg and Molalla as a suspected DUI driver, but each time she was allowed to continue on her way.

At 5 p.m. that day, she used her credit card to purchase gasoline at a service station in Tualatin. Police have been monitoring her accounts since she was reported missing, but no additional purchases have been made.

While deputies searched the county's roads, the CCSO marine unit checked the county's waterways using side-scanning sonar systems on loan from other local law enforcement agencies.

'Multnomah County helped us out with their towed sonar array,' said Sergeant Graham Phalen. 'We were able to scan the whole river from the Sportcraft Marina in Oregon City up to the Milwaukie boat ramp.'

Search operations were suspended when the $20,000 sensor trailing behind the boat became snagged on a piece of submerged debris and sank.

'That's a pretty expensive piece of equipment, but we'll be able to get it back,' said Phalen.

The search resumed on Thursday in the vicinity of the Canby Ferry with another sonar system on loan from the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Washington.

'We understand that she liked to stay off the main roads, so this would be off the beaten path,' Phalen said. 'If she turned of Mountain Road from Stafford, it would be an easy straight shot down to the ferry.'

As Phalen steered upstream, the boat's throttle set to dead slow, he and Deputy Doug Olsen watched ghostly images flow down across a small screen, revealing the details of the river bottom below.

When a distinct, square object appeared on the monitor near the ferry crossing, Olsen marked the location with a buoy and dropped a small television camera overboard. It revealed only rocks and silt.

'When a car and an 80-year-old woman disappear off the face of the Earth, you have to check anyplace something that big could vanish. It could be sitting in a farmer's field somewhere, or parked in a suburban neighborhood, but we need to rule out the possibility that she ended up in the river,' said Phalen. 'We're just trying to satisfy ourselves that every possible approach has been exhausted.'

Divers returned to the site on Friday and searched in the 40-degree water out to a depth of 40 feet, again finding nothing.

'We're dependent now on the eyes of the public to tell us where this vehicle is,' said Detective Jim Strovink, CCSO's public information officer. 'We've done everything that's humanly possible, and the media has done an exceptional job of keeping this case in front of the public.'

MISSING

Dena Kline of Wilsonville, last seen driving her 1990 teal Honda Accord, with Idaho license plate number K332915. Kline is described as frail, standing five feet tall with short, reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. Anyone who has seen Kline or her vehicle is urged to call 911 immediately.