NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Loved ones scoured through a wooded area outside of Callahan on Sunday, looking for a Nassau County woman who was last seen in December.
The search comes after Melissa Bodden, 48, was reported missing Dec. 25, according to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office.
“We aren’t hoping to find a body," said Melissa Durham, Bodden’s friend.
More than a dozen of Bodden’s loved ones spent hours Sunday in the Cary State Forest near Thomas Creek, searching by foot and on four-wheelers for the missing mother of two.
“We pray Melissa is safe. We pray she is. I feel really bad being out here, looking in the woods, because I want to believe my friend is alive," explained Durham, who organized the search. “I am pretty persistent, and I have a great team behind me. We’re going to search the railroad tracks. There are some bridges right here at Thomas Creek. We are going to check around the water areas. You could cut off the service road, at all hours of the night. Nobody would see you."
Durham also said Sunday’s search area was near where the family of Bodden’s boyfriend lives. Bodden’s family members said she was last known to be with her boyfriend, Jerry Salis III, before she disappeared. Salis was arrested Dec. 24 -- the day before his girlfriend was reported missing -- on charges unrelated to her disappearance.
“Melissa is the one who balanced her checkbook. Melissa is the one who took care of her family. She loves her father. She loves her kids. She definitely would never ever leave them, especially around Christmas. She shares a birthday with her son. She would not just not come home for Christmas or birthdays and holidays," Durham said.
Authorities said Bodden was last seen Dec. 23 near Sycamore Street in Northwest Jacksonville, but Durham told News4Jax that she was last seen Dec. 19. “Nobody has seen her since then,” Durham said.
Authorities found Bodden’s car nearly one month after she was reported missing. Detectives have not released the location where they found the vehicle.
Anyone with information about Bodden’s whereabouts or the case is asked to call law enforcement.