Dogs will try to find traces today of a 44-year-old Signal Mountain woman whose crimson Jeep was found Thursday on the side of the mountain, seven months after she disappeared.
Gail Palmgren has not been seen since April 30, when she dropped off her children, then ages 9 and 12, at the family home on Ridgerock Drive. Since then, no one has heard from her.
Her remains were not found with the Jeep, which has the personalized Alabama tag reading "EAZY ST," a reference to the street address of her lake home in Wetumpka, Ala.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigators and recovery crews will begin searching today for any trace of Palmgren. They also will begin the task of getting the Jeep off the side of the mountain, which may require airlifting the vehicle, officials said.
Aerial searches Thursday located the Jeep and an unrelated vehicle. Authorities believe Palmgren's vehicle veered off the cliff on East Brow Road, then tumbled toward the W Road.
"When you go up to the location, there are some clues after the fact," said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond. "One neighbor up there said they remembered seeing a rock was missing from the edge [of the road], but they didn't think to connect that maybe it had been a vehicle that had gone over."
Although authorities and community groups searched on foot on and around Signal Mountain in the months after Palmgren disappeared, the trees had to drop their leaves before an aerial search could be effective. Using a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter, authorities also used technology to detect abnormalities in the landscape, which located the Jeep, Hammond said.
The site was too inaccessible for any foot search to reach -- rappellers had to use 600-foot ropes to reach the vehicle.
W ROAD CLOSED
The W Road will be closed to traffic until further notice and residents who live on the road will be asked to show identification before being allowed to drive on it, officials said Thursday.
"It will, at this point, remain a crime scene until we discover what we need to find out," Hammond said. "That's why we're being careful to document everything we find as we move along."
Investigators also are trying to figure out how to remove the Jeep without disturbing potential evidence.
"Right now, that's going to be a real problem. We're going to consider several options but it is in a very difficult location," Hammond said. "We have talked about airlifting it up with the right equipment."
While the find comes as a major break in the case, many questions remain.
"We definitely would love some answers like, where is she -- where is Gail? -- and if anyone physically had anything to do with her disappearance," said Susie Button, who lives across the street from the Palmgren residence. "We're delighted that the car was found, but there's a lot of questions."
On Thursday, Button gathered with girlfriends to watch the news coverage and track any progress of the case online.
Palmgren was on the verge of ending her 14-year-marriage to her husband, Matthew, when she disappeared, family and friends said.
Signal Mountain police were called to the home on April 22 and April 29 in response to the couple's arguments. Gail Palmgren also gave money and documents to neighbors and relatives to hold for safekeeping before she went missing, according to court documents.
Matthew Palmgren filed for legal separation on May 6 in Hamilton County Chancery Court, stating his wife suffered from depression and believed people were following her. Gail's friends disputed his characterization.
He withdrew the motions on June 1.
Matthew Palmgren's attorney, Lee Davis, said Thursday that, "On behalf of Matt, the Palmgren children and entire family, we are really appreciative of the work of the sheriff's office, TBI and other folks. It's a tragedy."
Matthew Palmgren did not go to the crash scene Thursday, Davis said, but Mike Mathis, a private investigator whom Palmgren hired to help with the search, was at the site.
"Anything we can do to assist, we're ready to do," Davis said.
Matthew Palmgren consented to searches of family properties in the weeks after his wife disappeared.
Authorities also searched a portion of the Tennessee River in May.
Monica Caison, founder of Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons based in Wilmington, N.C., has coordinated resources to help with the search. The organization also promotes awareness for missing people.
"We felt strongly we were in the right place," she said after the Jeep was found.
She said she is hopeful Gail Palmgren will be found today.
"The holidays have been tough. The family's been through a lot," she said. "It would be not a good day but, in a sense, a good day. We set out to try to find her."