HUNLOCK TWP. — Walking over fallen trees and huge rocks hidden by thick brush and tall ferns, Jocelyn Thomas had hope.
The rough, heavily wooded terrain wasn’t going to stop Jocelyn or four others in their latest endeavor Friday to find Phylicia Thomas, who has been missing for more than 14 years.
Jocelyn carried rope and a grappling hook she intended to throw in a pond in a desperate effort to find her sister.
When they reached the pond, disappointment fell over them.
“We didn’t expect it to be this big,” Judy Fisher said, standing on the shoreline. “This is absolutely disgusting. We shouldn’t have to be the investigators doing the state police work.”
Upset at seeing the large pond, Jocelyn went off on her own in the woods for a short time.
On the shoreline, Fisher, Kevin Ryan and Gina Becker concluded that all the tips and information they received over the years have one thing in common: Phylicia’s remains are within walking distance of a farm on Timber Lane and the former residence of Steve Martin on Golf Course Road.
The pond poses the latest obstacle in the puzzle of trying to find out what happened to Phylicia.
“I was told to go look at these ponds that Steve Martin and his pals used to go back there riding their quads all the time,” Jocelyn said.
Martin, 32, was the target of state police investigators who searched his house and seized his all-terrain vehicle, according to Times Leader reports.
Martin took his own life while at the state prison at Camp Hill on Aug. 10, 2005, where he was serving a sentence for causing a fatal vehicle crash in Wilkes-Barre in December 2004.
One discovery was made Friday.
An old, disintegrating shower curtain was found beneath a fallen tree, about 50 yards from the pond and about 30 yards off a trail.
Becker and Andrew Ostrowski used Jocelyn’s grappling hook to dig out the old shower curtain.
There are no houses within miles of where the shower curtain was found.
Phylicia was reported missing by her mother, Pauline Bailey, on Feb. 13, 2004, when she received a phone call from Phylicia’s place of employment indicating her paycheck was never picked up. Phylicia was 22.
Fisher and Bailey believe Phylicia was killed while attending a party in a house trailer on a farm on Timber Lane on Feb. 11, 2004, and her body then carried to a barn where it was kept. They believe her body was either buried in a vegetable garden on the farm or dumped in the pond, which discharges into Roaring Brook Creek.
It was along Roaring Brook Creek on April 2, 2010, when two boys, 12 and 15, found a human skull.
Dental records were used to identify the skull as Jennifer Barziloski, who was 18 when she was reported missing in June 2001.
Bailey previously said she believes her daughter was killed because she was asking questions about Barziloski’s disappearance.
Investigators did search Roaring Brook Creek, 1 mile upstream and 1 mile downstream, finding no other human remains.
“We’re disappointed but we turn that disappointment into something positive,” Fisher said Friday.
Fisher created a gofundme account — Cadaver Dog for search for Phylicia — to raise $8,000 in donations to hire a private detective and cadaver dogs to search the pond and possibly the farm on Timber Lane.
Cadaver dogs did conduct a search of the Timber Lane farm in August 2016, making hits inside a barn and at the vegetable garden. When police searched the farm with cadaver dogs in September 2016 and again last month, they did not hit on anything suspicious.
“We’re at the point where we are reacting to information we receive, like going out to the pond,” Fisher said. “But it takes money to hire professional cadaver dogs. All we want is to bring Phylicia home.”