The Grant County Sheriff’s Office has no new leads on the couple who are missing following a house fire in the Laycock Creek Road area last week.
Sheriff Glenn Palmer said the “phone’s been off the hook” as numerous friends and family have called his office after Terry and Sharon Smith’s home on Nan’s Rock Road burned to the ground July 17-18.
Foul play is not yet suspected, but law enforcement are still looking for the Smiths’ vehicle, Palmer said. Friends and family who have contacted the sheriff’s office said it was unusual for the Smiths to have lost contact with them, he said.
“They’re a very social couple,” Palmer said.
Palmer confirmed cadaver dogs searched the debris from the house fire and found no human remains. A search effort was planned for the surrounding area Tuesday, he said.
A statewide press release was issued by the sheriff’s office last week, asking anyone with information about the location of Terry Smith, 67, and Sharon Smith, 65, or their silver 2006 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with license plate 714 EGG to contact law enforcement. Palmer said the press release was not sent to Hawaii, where the Smiths had a home.
Cathy Hinshaw, Sharon’s sister who lives in Hawaii, said she spoke to Sharon the evening of the fire, and Sharon said they were headed to bed. Hinshaw said she then got a call about 4 a.m. from a friend of Sharon’s who lived near Nan’s Rock Road informing her about the fire.
The Smiths’ disappearance is very unusual and could suggest foul play, Hinshaw said. She said the Smiths were very social and she talked to Sharon two or three times a day. She said she and Sharon have known Terry since they were in their early teens in Springfield and often went camping together.
Hinshaw also said the Smiths sometimes let people stay on the 80-100 acre property on Nan’s Rock Road they bought in the mid-1990s, but the man who served as a caretaker for the property was gone at the time of the fire.
Two men who said they’ve known the Smiths for several decades contacted the Eagle about the missing couple. James Parker said he lived near the Smiths’ home in Hawaii, and Magnus Julleryd of Sweden said he knew the Smiths from their business trips to Bali, Indonesia.
According to Parker and Julleryd, the Smiths had made a living importing clothes from Bali and selling them in Birch Bay, Washington. Hinshaw said the Smiths got out of that business about 1998, and Terry got involved in other businesses including real estate. Sharon volunteered for hospice when she was in Hawaii, Hinshaw said.
In January 2011, Sharon posted a celebratory note on her Facebook page, marking her and Terry’s 41st anniversary together. She noted that she enjoyed traveling to Bali each year for clothes and selling them seasonally on San Juan Island, Washington. Another post described a “hunting cabin in Eastern Oregon” believed to be the structure that burned.
Locating the fire initially proved difficult, John Day Fire Chief Ron Smith told the Eagle. A “glow” was observed by people west of Mt. Vernon and reported to authorities about 10:15 p.m. on July 17, but the reporting party thought there was a fire on Canyon Mountain.
According to John Day dispatch, crews from the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, John Day fire and Mt. Vernon fire responded to Nan’s Rock Road around 12:15 a.m. in an attempt to locate multiple fire reports.
By the time initial attack crews from ODF arrived, the house on Nan’s Rock Road was completely burned to the ground, Smith said. John Day fire crews secured the perimeter to prevent the fire’s spread to the surrounding area, which included heavy timber and open meadows covered with dry grass, he said.
The road off Laycock Creek Road is in a very isolated area, and the road was in rough condition, Smith said. There were no nearby neighbors who might have seen the fire and called it in right away, he said.
Smith said he saw remains of solar panels indicating the house may have been off the grid. He said many people who live in this area are not year-round residents.
Palmer encouraged anyone who knew the location of the Smiths or their pickup to contact the sheriff’s office at 541-575-1131.