Police Continuing Search for Missing Pastor

Police Continuing Search for Missing Pastor

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Family photo of George Vander Weit

Police in Rochester, Mich., have expanded their search for Rev. George Vander Weit, who was reported missing early in July after leaving home on his bicycle and without his cell phone or identification.

After conducting several land and air searches of wooded areas within several miles of Vander Weit’s home, police have been unable to find any trace of the retired Christian Reformed Church minister.

Before he went missing, police say, Vander Weit had been recently discharged from a mental health facility. He is considered to be a danger to himself.

But there are many questions to answer.

As a result, said Rochester Police Chief Steven Schettenhelm, police are asking for information from people who know Vander Weit and might be able to discuss his habits and personality.

“We are now in the more investigative phase of this case,” said Schettenhelm.

“We are trying to reassemble George’s pattern of life. Where were his favorite places to go to clear his mind. We are trying to fill in the blanks,” he said.

Hoping to answer some of these questions, the police chief has sent a Rochester detective to Grand Rapids, Mich., the U.S. base of the CRC, to talk with people who know Vander Weit, trying to learn more about him.  “We are a sponge of information right now,” he said.

“We are looking for those next pieces of information to help us know where we need to go out to look.”

Vander Weit, 70, was last seen about 9:30 a.m. on July 5 around the intersection of Runyon and Dequindre roads in Rochester in northeast Oakland County. He was wearing a red T-shirt and olive- green shorts and riding an older-style 10-speed bike.

About 60 people searched a 5-square-mile area on July 6, said the police chief. The police department has received assistance from a number of K9 units and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, as well as from helicopter search resources on various search attempts.

The area near Vander Weit’s home is full of bike trails, open land and a densely wooded park.

At one point, a K9 dog got a scent and led searchers into the woods. But they found nothing, said the police chief.

Right now, said the police chief, they are not conducting many active searches and are focusing instead on gathering information about Vander Weit.

Vander Weit is a well-known pastor in the CRC and a prolific writer for The Banner, the church’s monthly publication.

He served churches in Wayland, Mich., Cleveland, Ohio, Troy Mich.,  Grand Rapids, Mich., and a Korean church in Rochester.

Schettenhelm said police officials have been in touch with Vander Weit’s wife and children every day, updating them on the case.

Anyone with information about Vander Weit’s whereabouts is asked to email SSchettenhelm@rochestermi.org or call the Rochester Police Department at 248-651-9621.