Two similar tips recently given to Pauline Bailey regarding the whereabouts of her daughter, Phylicia Thomas, are similar to a note she was given during a search to when she was reported missing in 2004.
Bailey reported her daughter missing on Feb. 13, 2004, about 41 hours after she was last seen on Feb. 11, 2004.
Five days after Bailey reported Thomas missing, more than 50 volunteers searched the townships of Lake, Jackson and Hunlock on foot, on horseback and all-terrain vehicles. During the search, Bailey disclosed someone gave her a note that stated, “There is a body behind the Pump & Pantry,” a convenience store at routes 118 and 29 where Thomas worked as a clerk.
Thomas worked up until 11:30 p.m. on the day she was last seen.
Bailey said the area behind the convenience store was searched on Feb. 18, 2004, but no body was located.
After receiving two tips in recent weeks, Bailey may refocus on the area behind the store.
In an interview last week, Bailey and her friend, Judy Fisher, said the two tips are similar to the note indicating a body was behind the Pump & Pantry.
“It’s too coincidental that I received a note during the first search in 2004 that said ‘there is a body behind the Pump & Pantry’ and then we receive these two tips that say the same thing, to search behind the Pump & Pantry,” Bailey said.
Fisher said the tips came from separate people she believes don’t know each other. One tip was received in August and the other earlier this month.
A problem they face is the vast amount of open and forested land owned by different property owners, which means they must receive permission to search private properties.
Efforts to find Thomas have heightened in recent years with each tip Bailey and Fisher received.
For nearly two years, Fisher arranged to have canines from search and rescue organizations canvass a 25-acre farm on Timber Lane in Hunlock Township. The farm was sold in 2015 and the current property owner allowed his land to be searched, including using a backhoe where canines made hits of human decomposition.
Bailey and Fisher strongly believe Thomas, after ending her shift at the Pump & Pantry on Feb. 11, 2004, was lured to a party in a house trailer on Timber Lane. The party was attended by 17 people, and two or three left when they heard Thomas’s cries for help, they said.
More than a decade after Thomas went missing, state police acknowledged she was last seen leaving the house trailer with Steve Martin and another man who was not identified. Martin took his own life while incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution — Camp Hill where he was jailed on an unrelated vehicular homicide conviction.
Martin was pronounced dead at Hershey Medical Center in Dauphin County on Aug. 11, 2005.
According to the Dauphin County Coroner’s Office, Martin’s cause of death is listed as passive hanging while the manner of death remains undetermined.
State police said at the time Martin was a “person of interest” in Thomas’ disappearance.
Bailey had a glimmer of hope May 23 when a person, who requested to remain anonymous when interviewed by a Times Leader reporter the same day, indicated bones were in the basement of a home on Golf Course Road, about one-half mile from Martin’s residence and the house trailer.
State police searched the house on May 25 revealing bones found in the basement were that of animals.
Bailey and Fisher have come to realize Thomas is dead and strongly believe she was killed by more than one person.
In response to information supplied by Bailey and Fisher, state police would only confirm the investigation remains open and all leads that are received are investigated.
Despite the 16th anniversary of Thomas’ disappearance approaching, Bailey said there remains friction between her efforts on finding her daughter and state police.
“I pray every single night we can come together with the state police and sit down and share information, to put our notes together. Every time I ask, I get screamed at and told its an open investigation and threatened I would be arrested for interfering with an investigation by asking questions,” Bailey said.
“She has every right to yell as a victim and yet she has no answers,” Fisher said of Bailey. “We have to find a way to reach out and bring Phylicia home.”