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Family of missing West Virginia mom still searching for answers nearly 10 months after her disappearance

The 24-year-old mother of three was last seen on March 11, 2021, at the top of Spruce Knob in the Monongahela National Forest.

Editor's Note:

Remains believed to be Cassie Sheetz were found in the Northern Seneca Creek area of the Monongahela National Forest on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. According to a press release from the West Virginia State Police, the remains have been sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification, but based on the items located at the scene, it is believed to be Cassie.

It’s been nearly 10 months since Cassie Sheetz went missing at Spruce Knob in Pendleton County, West Virginia, and her family is still searching for answers – but say their hope is running thin.

“We’re trying to be as strong as we can,” Cassie’s mother, Arlene Shelton, told Dateline. “We’re trying to have hope that she’s still out there somewhere. But it’s hard. Our hope is running thin. I just miss her so much.”

On March 11, 2021, Cassie went on a hike with two male companions around 2 p.m., her mother explained to Dateline. The two men emerged separately from the woods after midnight on March 12, but Cassie was nowhere to be found.

According to West Virginia State Police Sergeant Andy Teter, one of the men was waiting by the car they had traveled there in and the other was spotted by a passerby coming out of the forest. They told the passerby they had gotten separated from Cassie and tried to look for her. She was reported missing that day.

Sergeant Teter told Dateline that state police interviewed both men the day Cassie was reported missing and again in the days following. Searches were launched on the mountain and trails leading up to Spruce Knob, but police say no trace of Cassie was found.

Cassie’s mother, Arlene, says she wonders if Cassie was even on the mountain when she disappeared. She added that Cassie wasn’t a hiker, and while it wasn’t unusual for non-hikers to go for a walk on the trails to hang out, it wasn’t an easy hike.

“There are supposedly pictures of Cassie up there that day, with the spruces,” Arlene told Dateline. “But there are spruce trees everywhere here in West Virginia. It could have been anywhere.”

She added that she believes it’s strange that nothing of Cassie’s has been found. Her cell phone, which she only used over Wi-Fi, was last used at a friend’s house earlier that day, her mom said.

Sergeant Teter told Dateline that investigators have seen the photos and believe they were taken at Spruce Knob on the day she was last seen. He confirmed that Cassie’s cell phone was only used over Wi-Fi and they were not able to track it.

State Police say that even though they have halted their search for Cassie on Spruce Knob, they are still investigating her disappearance as tips come in. But added that the tips are few and far between.

“We haven’t received any new information in about two months,” Sgt. Teter told Dateline. “We’re still actively investigating – but we need tips to come in.”

In October, the family’s frustration and determination to not give up led them to hire private investigator Kevin Ryan. Ryan, a Philadelphia-based private investigator for over 20 years, has been focusing on missing persons cases since 2012.

“Everybody assumes that after several months go by, that she’s deceased,” Ryan told Dateline. “There’s no evidence that she’s gone. But there’s also no evidence that she’s still here either.”

Ryan added that he feels they’re at a crossroad in the investigation.

“I care about the day she went missing, of course, but I care more about the days leading up to that day,” he said.

Ryan told Dateline that he’s in close contact with State Police and hopes to find something they might have missed.

“There is a lot more that can be done,” he added. “For whatever reason, there’s a difference of opinion here, but this girl is missing. She’s a mother, she’s a daughter. And she deserves a voice… and this family needs resolution.”

Earlier this summer, Cassie’s 25th birthday was marked with the placement of a billboard by Lamar Advertising in Elkins. Her family has done countless interviews with local news outlets. A Facebook group for Cassie continues to grow in followers. And a group of volunteers from the community conducted a massive search in October.

The family’s private investigator told Dateline that he’s focusing on other locations to search outside of Spruce Knob, but needs more information before putting boots on the ground. He added that he was hoping to organize a massive search before the end of the year.

But as the end of the year quickly approaches and winter weather threatens any potential searches, Ryan said it looks like they will have to wait until spring.

Cassie’s mother said she’s worried they won’t have answers anytime soon.

She added that she can’t help but think of all the milestones her daughter is missing. Especially the milestones in the lives of her three children, who are ages 8, 5 and 2.

“Her daughter, the oldest, keeps asking me where she is,” Arlene said. “I don’t know what to say. It breaks my heart.”

This weekend, Cassie’s family spent their first holiday season without her. They hope that Kevin Ryan’s investigation will lead to answers or that somebody will come forward with information that will finally bring closure.

“She’s got three kids and they need her mom,” Arlene told Dateline. “And I need my little girl. She’s very loved and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. We need answers.”

Cassie is described as 5’3” and weighs 120 lbs. She has numerous tattoos including the names “Rubie” and “Bella” on her upper chest. Cassie also has multiple facial piercings on her ears, lips, eye brows and her belly button. At the time of her disappearance, it’s believed that Cassie was wearing camouflage pants and a hoodie.

Anyone with information on Cassie’s whereabouts is asked to call the West Virginia State Police at (304) 358-2200 or Private Investigator Kevin Ryan at (803) 993-8477.