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The search for a missing Oregon woman will go in a new direction after the discovery of “interesting items and clues” this week, authorities say.
Allyson Watterson, 20, went missing after going on a hike with her boyfriend, 21-year-old Benjamin Garland, near the North Plains area on Sunday, ABC News reports. Garland reportedly told authorities that he and Watterson got separated during the hike. A local resident found Garland sleeping in his truck and took him back home with him; Garland and his father then went back out to search for Watterson, but contacted her family when they were unable to find her, according to the outlet.
Watterson was reported missing on Monday and, since then, hundreds have joined in the search for the young woman, with many gathering to traverse the area on Christmas day. However, Deputy Tony Morris of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said during a press conference on Thursday that the direction of the search would be changing.
“We have gotten some information that is going to kind of refocus the type of searching that we’re going to be doing,” he said.
Morris, the incident commander, said that he was unable to provide further details, but said later, “[We] have found some interesting items and clues that we’re going to try to find out more information tomorrow with a different type of search.”
Morris said that the search for Watterson will “slow down quite a bit ... as we get actionable information, we change the type of searching and we slow down and we get a lot closer and it gets way more body intensive and time sensitive.”
Around 100 searchers, including the National Guard, joined in on the search for Watterson during the first few days of the effort, but Morris said that, moving forward, the search will continue with only “trained personnel” for the sake of the investigation.
Amid the search for Watterson, Garland was arrested and booked into the Washington County jail for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and other charges that are not connected to his girlfriend’s disappearance, Oregon Live reports. He is also facing an outstanding warrant charge, in addition to charges related to identity theft and auto theft, according to KATU News. A judge ordered him held on $2,000 bail, and he is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 3, 2020, per the outlet’s report. He is reportedly cooperating with search efforts.
Watterson’s father, Alan Watterson, thanked the community for their support on Thursday, and both parents urged residents to keep an eye out for their daughter, as she may be looking for “a place to get warm,” according to ABC News.
Watterson’s loved ones have been placing missing persons posters around the community, KATU News reports.
“We are asking anybody who would love to take a couple hours out of their day to help us pass out flyers and get the word out to the neighbors, to the property owners, to anybody in this area to please check their sheds, check abandoned cars, check garages, anywhere somebody might hide and seek shelter,” Misty Watterson said, according to the outlet.
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