PIERCEFIELD - The family of missing teen Colin Gillis tried to send a message to their son through the media Wednesday afternoon.
"Colin, if you're out there, nobody's going to be mad at you," said father John Gillis. "Give us a call."
"Come on home," said Colin's big brother Lyndon Gillis.
The family of missing teen Colin Gillis speak to the media Wednesday afternoon, putting out a message to their son and brother to come home. They are, from left, mother Patty Gillis, older brother Lyndon Gillis and father John Gillis.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
"Let us know you're OK," said mother Patty Gillis. "You're not in any trouble. I promise I won't yell at you."
"Not for the first hour," Lyndon joked.
"Reach out to us and let us know that you're OK," Patty said. "Bottom line is, we just want you to come home."
Colin Gillis is described as a white male, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighing about 170 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. State police said he was last seen wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers.
Anyone with information is asked to call state police's Ray Brook dispatch at 518-897-2000.
They said 18-year-old Colin, who had just returned home on spring break from SUNY Brockport when he disappeared after leaving a party early Sunday morning, has never done anything like this before.
"He would have called," Lyndon said.
But they don't want that to stop him from contacting them if for some reason he is out there and scared of repercussions if he returns.
"If something did happen, what we're hoping is Colin's out there, and we don't want him to feel bad about this. We want him to check in," John said.
Patty also spoke to anyone else who may have information about the whereabouts of her son.
"If someone has seen him, please call," Patty said. "Nobody's in trouble. We're not looking for anything like that. We just want to know that he's safe and he's OK.
Colin was last seen at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday on state Route 3, near the Franklin and St. Lawrence county line where Tupper Lake meets Piercefield. Extensive searching of the area since then has turned up only two of his personal items, found Monday morning, which state police have declined to identify.
Possibly one of the last people to see Colin Sunday morning, a motorist driving to Tupper Lake on state Route 3, said the man he saw was acting erratically. Rich Rosentreter of Lake Placid said he and his mother passed a pedestrian who looked like he was hitchhiking at first, holding his arm up in the direction of Tupper Lake, then switching arms and pointing the way to Piercefield. It was 1:45 a.m., and while Rosentreter passed the pedestrian, he immediately drove to the Tupper Lake village police station and reported the unusual occurance, though state police drove out shortly thereafter and saw nothing.
The Gillis family is hoping Colin got a ride somewhere.
"Hopefully he's sitting high and dry on a beach somewhere and left his phone at the hotel room and he's having a blast," Lyndon said.
"He's on spring break," John laughed.
Last saw him
John told the press he and his wife last saw Colin at about 8:30 Saturday evening. They had dinner with him and watched a college basketball game.
He was excited to go out and see his friends at a party at a residence on Paskungameh Road, John said. He said Colin joked about how it was a reunion of the kids he graduated with in 2011, though it hasn't even been a year since they graduated.
"He was all pumped up about seeing his friends," John said. "We were just kind of laughing and having a good time, like usual with Colin. He was in a great mood - like I said, very excited to see his friends."
John said Colin was also joking about how all his friends in college bought a machine that works abdominal muscles so they could look like him, since he was working hard to get in good shape.
When he left, the family said he didn't say anything strange, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
"It was just a normal, 'Going out to see some friends, I'll be home,'" John said.
Colin's family said that while he may not be especially familiar with the particular patch of forest in the area where he was last seen, he was a Boy Scout and has plenty of experience in the woods of Tupper Lake.
"We all grew up in the woods," Lyndon said. "We all know how to get through it. We know what to do; we know what to look for when we're lost. It's part of our upbringing."
As they have done every day since the state Department of Conservation, state police and hundreds of volunteers started searching for Colin Monday morning, family members again thanked the community for all the support.
As he has previous days this week, John complimented the professionalism and the compassion of DEC and police, saying the family was impressed with the resources from around the state being utilized to find their son.
"We feel very blessed," John said. "Now I know how the president feels."
He also thanked all the fire departments, ladies' auxiliary, rescue squads and other volunteers who have helped, as well as the businesses and individuals who have sent food.
"I think we had enough food to feed everyone twice," John said.
Lyndon said he has a lot of respect for all the friends, family and other volunteers who have been searching the woods for the last three days. He has spent most of his time in the woods looking, too, since his brother went missing.
John said it's amazing how much ground has been covered over those three days.
"I can't even fathom all of the acres and everything that we've covered," Lyndon said. "Being out in the woods and being out on the search crews, it's been unbelievable."
He also said that so many people who came to help out were friendly. Area residents he didn't know but who knew him would say hi and ask him how he was doing, and everyone was of one mind while in the woods.
"Everybody has the same goal: Let's find Colin," Lyndon said.
They said they believe there has been so much of a community outpouring to find Colin because he was such a good kid, but also because Tupper Lake is a small community where people help one another when they're in need.
"It's a small community; everybody knows everybody," Lyndon said. "If it was anybody else's kid, you know, they could only hope and pray they would have the same kind of efforts and the same kind of outcome. I would be there in a heartbeat."
"They would. That's what we do," Patty said.
All the support from volunteers and friends who have called or sent messages from other places have helped carry the family throughout the last few days.
Colin's younger brother, 10th-grader Ian, has been staying in school and keeping occupied. He's got a role in the high school musical, "Cinderella," which opens this weekend, so he's been busy with the last week of rehearsals for the show.
State police Lt. Scott Heggelke said there have been no new leads in the investigation. He said there's been nothing to suggest Colin has been anywhere else since the last time he was seen on state Route 3.
"Unfortunately right now, we don't have anything new to report as far as new information," Heggelke said.
DEC forest ranger Capt. John Streiff said the area search was going well Wednesday. Seventeen forest rangers, a state police helicopter and K-9 units, Champlain Valley K-9 units, and other search-and-rescue volunteer groups from as far away as Livingston County joined 120 well-prepared lay volunteers.
He planned for a complete type 3 search of a mile radius around the point where Colin was last seen to be completed sometime today. Once that happens, he said they will regroup and decide where else to search.
"We are optimistic that if we don't find Colin in an area, then we know he's not in that area," Streiff said. "That's how we look at things."
As the search has progressed and few clues have been found on land, Streiff said the search is gravitating toward the water. DEC and state police airboats and dive teams were on the scene again, and on Wednesday, several DEC operations staff were searching class 3 and 4 whitewater rapids on the Raquette River downstream from the Piercefield Dam.
Monday's weather was warm and sunny, and Tuesday turned out to be a nice day after some downpours. It grew colder and damper Wednesday, but Streiff said searchers have not had a problem with it.
"I'm not hearing complaints," Streiff said. "I'm hearing, 'When can I come back?'"
Even fewer volunteers will be needed in the search today.
John Gillis said that if the DEC search is completed without finding Colin, they'll have to start coming up with other ideas.
"The DEC is extremely thorough," John said. "And they're not going to call it quits, you know; they're going to do their search. And when that search is done, we're going to switch to other tactics."