Without a Trace

Illinois man missing since Sunday, car found in Reed Point
By: 
Marlo Pronovost

SAR photo by Crystal Arnold

Search teams survey a ridge in the Reed Point area during a recent search for missing man Paul Batson. More than 500 acres have already been covered by teams, with no clues as to Batson’s whereabouts found.

With each passing day, the case of missing Illinois resident Paul Batson grows more concerning.

The 45-year-old man was last heard from Sunday, April 29, while in Bozeman. The following day, his 2016 Dodge Charger was found abandoned in the middle of Reed Point. Inside what was described as an “extremely clean” vehicle was his travel bag. Gone were his cell phone and wallet.

Stillwater County Search and Rescue (SAR) crews, along with sheriff’s deputies and searchers from other counties using boats and dogs have scoured more than 500 acres in the Reed Point area to no avail.

The Bozeman Police Department, which entered Bat-son as a missing person Sunday, April 29, is investigating the case with the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office, and have tabbed the case a disappearance “under suspicious circumstances.” 

Meanwhile, Batson’s family and coworkers are desperate to find the man they have described in Chicago-area newspapers as funny, quick-witted, sarcastic and well regarded. Family members have also said Batson has never disappeared before and that just days before he went missing, he had been in Colorado visiting his three grown sons.

“His children are desperate to find him,” said his sister, Jennifer Batson-List, in a Chicago Daily Herald article. “My parents are quite distraught.”

The mother of Batson’s three sons wrote the following on the SCN’s Facebook page link about the case:

“Thank you so much to the people that are taking their time and putting themselves out there to search for him! It is really appreciated! My heart is breaking for my boys.”

TIMELINE

Batson is reportedly a United States Navy veteran and a current U.S. Postal worker from Batavia, Ill., who was in Montana checking out Butte and Bozeman as possible transfer cities, said Stillwater County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Smith.

Batson was last heard from at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, when he told his girlfriend he was at the Bozeman Public Library and had a meeting with the Bozeman Postal Service the following morning, April 30, according to police reports.

Batson never showed up at that meeting. After calling hospitals and multiple attempts at making contact with him, the girlfriend reported Batson missing to the Bozeman Police Department.

At approximately 12:23 p.m. the following day, a Still-water County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a call about Batson’s abandoned 2016 Dodge Charger that was parked on the street across from the gas station in Reed Point. Batavia, Ill., police were contacted in an effort to locate a phone number, but a number was not found. The deputy wrote on the car’s window for Batson to call the sheriff’s office.

At 8:35 p.m., dispatch got a “delayed hit” on the car, and learned the owner had been reported as missing by the Bozeman PD the previous day. A deputy returned to the location and noted the vehicle was “extremely clean” and the only items missing appeared to be Batson’s cell phone and his wallet. People in the area were questioned, but none remembered seeing a man that matched Bat-son’s description.

The car was impounded and a search for Batson was launched immediately.

SEARCH AND RESCUE

SAR crews took to the water and land to try and find Batson or any clue of his whereabouts, covering more than 500 acres by this past Monday, May 7, said SAR Communications/Logistics Officer Crystal Arnold.

A boat, divers and canine teams are being utilized, with help from the Absaroka Search Dogs and Western Montana Search Dogs groups.

Efforts to locate Batson through his cell phone have been unsuccessful, leading investigators to believe the phone is either turned off or out of battery. Smith said Thursday afternoon that Batson's "financials and phone records" have been gone through and yeilded no clues.

Batson is described as being 6 foot 2 inches tall, 185 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing jeans and a dark, button-up shirt.

Stillwater County Undersheriff Chip Kem said late Monday afternoon the investigation remains active and anyone with information about Batson is ask to contact Sgt. Smith at (406) 322-5326.

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