It's a mystery that still haunts the Adirondack community of Tupper Lake, New York. What happened to 18 year old Colin Gillis.
"Everybody around here is still wondering where this boy is -- just disappeared right away without a trace," said Renee Chesbrough, a local resident.
Colin Gillis was last seen walking along Route 3 near the Franklin County, St. Lawrence County line. It was just before 2 a.m. Colin had just left a friends house. Someone driving along Route 3 saw Gillis and was concerned that he was walking alone so late at night. They went to the police station in town. Officers arrived on scene a few minutes later and Colin Gillis was no where to be found.
"Far and away probably the biggest search this area has ever seen," said New York State Police Capt. John Tibbits.
The pre-med student's disappearance prompted what police say was the largest search ever in the area. Hundreds of law enforcement officers and hundreds of volunteers have searched 2,000 acres of dense woods and miles of the Raquette River and both Raquette Pond and Piercefield Flow. Family members were hopeful he'd be found soon.
But a year later, just a few small personal items have been found, including his ID card -- located in the road the day after his disappearance.
"We never anticipated it going on for this long," Capt. Tibbits said.
"We just can't thank everyone enough that has so generously donated time, money and resources -- It's been wonderful. It was almost overwhelming at first, we didn't realize how wonderful it is to live in a community like this and the greater area," said Rob Gillis, Colin's uncle.
Capt. Tibbits said they do not believe Gillis is in the area. "I feel reasonably confident -- could we have missed Colin some place in the woods? It's a possibility. I don't think it's likely," he said, adding that the area has been gone over with "a fine tooth comb."
Reporter Matt Henson: Where do you think he is then?
Capt. John Tibbits: That's the million dollar question.
As the family and community wonder what happened to Gillis, investigators said they are stumped as well. But they are far from giving up. Several investigators still work the case daily. Tips still come in regularly and troopers and forest rangers still search on foot, by air and in the water.
Matt Henson: Do you suspect foul play at this point?
Capt. John Tibbits: We haven't taken anything off the table at this point. The missing persons investigation goes in conjunction with a possible investigation into some sort of foul play -- those are parallel investigations. Whereas the ground search as the missing persons case has tailed off, that criminal investigation -- that maybe something bad did happen -- continues.
The Gillis family said it remains positive that they will one day find the piece of the puzzle that will help explain what happened to the 18-year-old. "You have to have closure at some point in time. That would be a wonderful benefit for the family and community at large," Rob Gillis said.
Serial killer Israel Keyes owned property in northern Franklin County and robbed a bank in Tupper Lake in 2009. But authorities say that based on a travel log compiled by the FBI, it appears Keyes was not in the area around the time Colin Gillis went missing.
The reward being offered by the Gillis family for information leading to a closure in the case has been increased from $10,000 to $25,000.
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