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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Search leads to body

Thursday, September 30, 2004

SEARCHING: Family and friends of Rebekah Gould left missing person posters throughout much of Izard County after she was reported missing Sept. 21. Now investigators are looking for her killer.
Investigators shift focus to finding killer of college coed

A 22-year-old college student was talking with her mother Sept. 19 when she realized her cell phone was out of minutes.

Before her phone went dead, the young women said, "Mom I'll call you back when I get some more minutes."

It's a call Shirley Joan Ballard will never receive.

A body believed to be Ballard's daughter, Rebekah Gould, was discovered Sept. 27 in a wooded embankment off Highway 9, 5 miles west of Melbourne.

"We believe this to be the body of Ms. Gould. The body hasn't been positively identified and until that time the search will continue," said Lt. Bill Beach with the Arkansas State Police.

Beach said the cause and time of death would not be known for several days.

Family members and friends who gathered at the Izard County Sheriff's Office were shocked and dismayed by the news.

"Our family is overwhelmed with grief right now," said Gould's father, Larry Gould.

Beach said law enforcement officials were following several leads in the case but charges were not imminent.

"There are several people of interest in this case. Many items have been sent to the crime lab in Little Rock and we are awaiting those test results," said Beach.

The partially clothed body was discovered by volunteers from the Office of Emergency Services approximately 35 feet off 9 at 9:30 a.m. OES Director Dennis Williams said the OES volunteers searched the area for only few minutes when they came across the body.

Emergency response teams had been looking for Gould, a Mountain View native, since her family reported her missing Sept. 21.

Beach said investigators think the body had been on the embankment for several days.

Gould's family became concerned when she failed to give her sisters a ride back to their Fayettville apartment Sept. 20.

Gould had recently rented the apartment in Fayettville with two of her sisters. Larry Gould said his daughter has been attending Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.

Gould's Chevrolet Cavalier, cell phone, purse and other personal effects were found the day she was reported missing at a friend's house on Highway 58, eight miles northeast of Guion. During a 12-hour search inside the residence, officers found blood in several locations, said Beach.

"It was the opinion of the investigators on the scene that there was a large amount of blood," he said.

Beach said blood samples recovered at the scene have been sent to the crime lab along with other items for analysis.

He said investigators think Gould was forcible removed from the residence of the friend, Casey McCollough.

McCollough has been questioned several times but is not a suspect, according to Arkansas State Police investigator Marc Hollingsworth.

Investigators have confirmed that several items had been taken from McCollough's residence.

Beach said Gould drove McCollough to work the morning of her disappearance.

Law enforcement officials would not comment on McCollough's whereabouts on the night of Sept. 20 or the morning of Sept. 21.

Izard County Sheriff Joe Martz said the last time Gould was seen was at 8 a.m. Sept. 20 at the Possum Trot convenience store in Melbourne.

Beach refused to say whether drugs were involved in the incident, but 16th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force Chief Scott Russell said the task force is not involved in the investigation.

Gould's sister Danielle said McCollough and her sister had been friends for a long time. Hollingsworth said Gould and McCollough were seen together at Harp's grocery store in Mountain View Sept. 19.

Danielle Gould said she and her sister would travel to the area from Fayettville on the weekends. She said her sister had stayed at McCollough's house on several occasions.

Beach said he would not comment as to whether Gould and McCollough were romantically involved.

Several members of Gould's family have questioned how the search for Rebekah was handled.

The search for Gould began at noon Sept. 21, but the media were not informed of the girl's disappearance until the next day.

"We didn't want to say anything that might compromise this case," Sheriff Martz explained. Martz refused to say how informing the public through the media would hinder the investigation.

Martz said officers from the Izard County Sheriff's Office, State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, OES and volunteers from several local fire departments assisted in the search.

"We had up to 25 officers from the various agencies searching for Rebekah at the height of the search," Martz said. He said the Baxter County Sheriff's Department provided their helicopter, and the Northcentral Unit of the Department of Corrections in Calico Rock sent tracking dogs to assist in the search.

He said the search area extended from Batesville in the south, west to Mountain View and north to Melbourne. He said special attention was paid to roads along Highway 58, the White River, abandoned mines in Guion and roads leading to Mountain View.

Larry Gould said he was pleased with the efforts of the state police and the local authorities.

He said it did surprise him that the Horseshoe Bend City Police -- the only other law enforcement agency in Izard County besides the Sheriff's department -- was not informed of Gould's disappearance until Thursday.

Horseshoe Bend is approximately 20 miles from McCollough's residence.

Danielle Gould said the family was given permission by Martz to form a volunteer search party at 6 p.m. Sept. 22. She said she was angry that it took so long to get permission to form a volunteer search.

Larry Gould said a group of family and friends searched areas in and around Guion and other places. He said the family searched up until the moment the body was discovered.

"The Izard County Sheriff's Office didn't call me a single time to coordinate our search efforts," said Larry Gould.

Larry Gould said there were some mistakes made in the search but his focus is now on catching his daughter's murderer.

"She wanted to go into pharmaceutical sales," Larry Gould said with tears in his eyes.

He said his daughters have been through a lot over the last month. Three weeks ago Rebekah Gould's 38-year-old half brother died of cancer.

"Now that we've found Rebekah, it's time to turn our attention to catching her killer," Larry Gould said.

Martz echoed Larry Gould's sentiments.

"I've got 96 more days in office before I retire. I want this solved before I go," Martz said.

Beach said anyone has information concerning Rebekah Gould's disappearance or death should call the Izard County Sheriff's Department at 870-368-4203 or his office at 870-741-2136.

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