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Susie Button, who lives across the street from Gail Palmgren, holds up a flier next to a Rubicon Jeep model similar to Palmgren's. Button showed up at the Signal Mountain Walmart parking lot Monday to help distribute 10,000 fliers. Palmgren was last seen April 30. Staff Photo by Beth Burger/Chattanooga Times Free Press


Gail Palmgren was last seen driving a crimson-red Rubicon Jeep with a back tire cover that says "Life is Good" in the shape of a daisy and a personalized Alabama tag reading, "EAZY ST." She is 5 feet 8, weighs 135 pounds and has blond hair and brown eyes. Anyone with any information can contact Signal Mountain Police Department at 423-886-2124.

The car trunk was loaded with boxes containing 10,000 fliers showing Gail Palmgren's smiling face.

It's a face loved ones have not seen since April 30.

Standing in the parking lot of the Signal Mountain Road Walmart on Monday, Palmgren's sister, Diane Nichols, a New York resident who spent the past week in the Chattanooga area, looked around at the crowd filled with her sister's friends, neighbors and some volunteers who never met Palmgren.

"It's - I can't even put into words. It's so heartwarming to know there are strangers out there trying to help find my sister," she said, beginning to tear up. "Because I feel all alone down here."

But Nichols is not alone, and people do want to help - even strangers who learned of Palmgren through the news have forwarded emails or posted to a Facebook page recently created about her disappearance.

"You hope that, if your family was in a town where you're immediate family didn't live, that people would come out and help you," said Sandra St. Pierre, 47, of Signal Mountain, who showed up in the parking lot to collect a stack of fliers to hand out.

Nichols doesn't want to go home until her sister is found, but it's been 16 days since anyone has heard from the 44-year-old mother of two.

Matthew Palmgren, Gail's husband, told police his wife left their children, ages 9 and 12, alone at their home at 40 Rockridge Drive on April 30. Her crimson-red Rubicon Jeep also was missing.

Two days later, at the urging of Nichols and other family members, he filed a missing persons report with the Signal Mountain Police Department. The report came only days after police responded to arguments between the Palmgrens at their home on April 29 and April 22.

The marriage of nearly 15 years was stressed.

Gail Palmgren lost her job at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in June 2010. She also suspected her husband was having an affair, according to friends and family, and had discovered hotel invoices from the DoubleTree hotel and a Hampton Inn in Chattanooga, invoices that showed his name and that he had paid in cash.

"There was talk about that. She had no proof at that point," Nichols said. "She did mention she found some things and she was going to further investigate it. She may have found something. She could have gotten concrete proof."

Matthew Palmgren, who changed his cellphone number since last week, could not be reached for comment on the search for Gail or respond to questions raised from the hotel invoices. Attempts to reach Bryan Hoss, Matthew Palmgren's attorney, were unsuccessful Monday.

On May 6, Matthew Palmgren filed documents in Hamilton County Chancery Court, requesting a legal separation from his wife, asking for exclusive use of their home and temporary custody of the children. A chancellor is scheduled to rule on the motions.

In documents, he said his wife suffered from depression and was prescribed several medications. He works as the director of pharmacy programs for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's government business and emerging markets business unit.

Susie Button, who lives across the street from the Palmgren family, said she believes Gail Palmgren was fearful. Button showed up Monday to pass out fliers, and Nichols has stayed with her during the search.

"I feel she went unwillingly and that something was going on at the house," Button said. "I really believe she was scared of something. She would never leave her kids alone this long. She's a wonderful mother, a great friend."

Nichols said traces on Gail Palmgren's cellphone directed police to an area near the north base of Signal Mountain. The last time there was activity on the cellphone was May 2, the same day the missing person's report was filed, Nichols said.

Signal Mountain Police Chief Boyd Veal did not respond to an interview request Monday to update the status of the case or answer questions.

In the meantime, Nichols struggles to know what to do next and asks for prayers.

"Anybody out there who is any kind of religious person, we can use all the prayers we can get. We need the help. Prayers for her safety and well being," Nichols said.

"I learned a long time ago it's in God's hands and he's taking care and watching over everyone who's involved. I've got to believe that and hold on to that."

Executive Editor J. Todd Foster contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfree or 423-757-6406.