ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - It's been more than three weeks since a popular St. Augustine waitress went missing. Now deputies are ramping up their efforts to find her.
Barbara Parchem's family reported her missing on April 6 when she didn't show up for work. At first, deputies did not suspect foul play, but on Friday that changed.
"It's hard enough to lose somebody, but when you don't know, that's even worse," said Victoria Rawlins, Parchem's daughter. "You think it's not happening, and you go on and you go to work and you hug your children and knowing they're grandmother's not there."
For Rawlins, hearing that investigators were stepping up their search for her mother was a bright spot in the dark weeks since she went missing.
"It's gratifying that they didn't stop looking and they're not going to stop," Rawlins said.
Detectives began working with Texas EquuSearch, a group that will soon be out across the county on horseback, searching for the 67-year-old.
They've started planning and getting the horses ready to search. Deputies say they should be able to begin searching within the next couple of days.
Investigators wouldn't say exactly what areas they'll be searching this week, but say they are targeting specific areas here in St. Johns County while looking at broader areas, too. They said the search could even expand outside the county.
Deputies met Monday morning with other agencies planning for the search ahead. In addition to the horses from EquuSearch, deputies could be using many of the other search methods they've employed since Parchem went missing -- searching on foot, using ATVs, dogs and helicopters.
"They are going to be on horseback. They can cover a lot of ground quickly, assisting us in the recovery if there are any type of remains or locating Barbara Parchem," said Sgt. Catherine Payne, of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said EquuSearch is expected to really help search efforts because they can cover a lot of ground quickly on horseback. The group has been in St. Johns County through the weekend, and that time has been all about preparation.
"Obviously they have to continually train on the horses, get the horses adjusted to this terrain, to our climate, familiar with some areas again, getting them some exercise and getting them adjusted to this area," Payne said.
Rawlins hopes the search will encourage the community to help, too. Something as small as a second glance would mean the world to her.
"If you've seen her, just say something to somebody, just call up to the police station and say where they've seen her at," she said.
Detectives say those tips from the community are invaluable. In fact, in the days since they released new photos of Parchem at a convenience store, they say they've gotten new information they're looking into.
Anyone who has seen seen Parchem or has information that could help the investigation is asked to call Detective Jeremy Russell of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office at 904-209-2193 or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS (8477).
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