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Search continues Wednesday for missing hiker in Wildwood

St. Louis County police said Carol Schulte, 72, was near the area of the Al Foster Memorial Trailhead at 225 Grand Ave. Monday morning.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A search for a woman who went missing from a Wildwood trailhead has continued into a third day.

Volunteers and state park rangers returned to the area of the Al Foster Memorial Trailhead Wednesday in hopes of finding some sign of Carol Schulte.

Schulte, 72, was last known to be heading out for a hike near the trailhead at 225 Grand Ave. on Monday. The trail is used by walkers, runners and cyclists and spans five miles along the Meramec River, passing through Sherman Beach and into Castlewood State Park.

Schulte is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and about 128 pounds. Police don't have a lot of information on what she was wearing, but it's believed she had on pink leggings.

Credit: St. Louis County PD

Sgt. Tracy Panus with the St. Louis County Police Department told reporters that officers were called to the trailhead at 3 p.m. Monday after a family member reported Schulte missing. Her minivan was found in a nearby parking lot, and a ping from her cell phone showed that she had been in the general area at around 7-8 a.m. Police searched the area Monday but did not find Schulte. 

Police have not been able to ping the phone again; it's unclear if it may have died or been turned off, Panus said. 

"All the doors are wide open at this point and we want to treat it as seriously possible," Panus said. At this point, no foul play is suspected.

Lt. Matt Coppin with the Metro West Fire Protection District said they were working with county police to conduct a large area search Tuesday. They made use of searchers on foot, drone technology, K9 units and a helicopter. More than 150 first responders and volunteers were assisting.

"The woods are full of people right now doing this large area search," Coppin said Tuesday.

Credit: KSDK
A search party gathers at the Al Foster Memorial Trailhead on Tuesday, May 24, to look for 72-year-old Carol Schulte, who was last seen in the area on Monday.

The area is covered in paths where locals commonly walk, run, hike and bike.

"Once you get off the path, it can be pretty rough terrain," he said. "There's bluffs that overlook the river there, there's cliff faces, deep woods, so it's a treacherous area when you get off the path. But again, it's such a large area that we need this amount of resources to conduct that business."

From what he was told, Schulte is a frequent hiker to the area, Coppin said.

"She was just a very heart warning loving, caring person all of the way around," Greg Schulte, Carol's stepson, said. He said Carol is a bus driver for Rockwood Schools. The entire family was happy that so many in the community helped search on Tuesday. 

"We were expecting 20 to 25 people," he said. "When we got out here within an hour all the parking lots were full, 2-3 news helicopters, there was drones. On behalf of the family it was heartwarming to see the community, it brings out the best. We didn't get the results that we wanted but it wasn't because we didn't try."

Panus announced at around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday that search efforts were ending for the day. Detectives are continuing their investigation. The search resumed Wednesday morning.

"We have checked the cell phone records and pinged the towers," Greg Schulte said Tuesday. He's the stepson of the missing woman. "This was her last location. She turned her phone off at 7:04 yesterday. We believe she is in this area somewhere, we just didn't find her today. It's very unsettling. It's nice to get closure, or direction on what to do. We just aren't sure what to do, what's the next steps. It's very troubling right now."

Searcher Mike Obermeyer said he originally came to the area Tuesday morning to take a hike. He didn't know about the search until he arrived.

"I found out this was closed and I couldn't hike so I figured I'd help out with the search and rescue," he said. 

Rebecca Copeland said she knows the trails in the area well.

"I came out because I'm an avid hiker, and when I hear somebody's missing, I feel like it's my duty to come help," Copeland said. "There's a lot of areas, a lot of drop-off cliffs that don't go too far, but some of them can go very far."

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