ELLENVILLE � Senior Investigator Stan O'Dell of the NY State Police wants family and friends of Joe Helt to know that the state troopers are still on the case � in fact, they have never been off it. O'Dell said he wanted to ensure the public understood that the case is ongoing and that those with potential information should contact his office, he said.
"We don't want to miss any leads and information, so we want to make sure they're [people who may have information] calling the right place," said O'Dell.
The story in last week's edition of the Shawangunk Journal mistakenly omitted the phone numbers for the NY State Police, thus O'Dell also wanted to clarify that it is his office that is coordinating the investigation, though it is acting in concert with Ellenville police.
"The investigation is ongoing," O'Dell said about the case. "It has been for 24 years."
The January 17, 1987, disappearance of teenager Joe Helt remains one of the more haunting chapters in recent local history. Helt disappeared after joyriding with three friends up at Sam's Point. When the car in which the group was riding became stuck the snow, Helt set off on foot to return to Ellenville. No obvious trace of Helt has ever been found.
O'Dell says that an enormous amount of work was done 24 years ago, involving everything from sniffer dogs, to helicopters, to teams of divers. This type of activity has continued through the years, O'Dell added.
"The case is revisited on a routine basis by us," O'Dell said.
Sometimes, O'Dell feels, the public gets the mistaken impression that no work is being done. This, however, is far from the case, he said.
O'Dell cited the recently-solved Joey Martin case as an example of what can happen when a "fresh set of eyes" looks at a file. In the case of Martin, a new investigator developed a theory as to how the case might be solved, which ultimately bore fruit when Martin's killer was brought to justice. O'Dell stressed, however, that there is currently no indication that Helt met with foul play.
The term "cold case," as popularized by a television series, is also something that O'Dell prefers to avoid, as it lends the impression that there is a warehouse of dusty old files that aren't receiving attention.
"When you say 'cold case' it sends the message that it's sitting on a shelf somewhere," O'Dell says. "That's not the case."
Anyone with information that may help the NY State Police figure out what happened to Helt should call 845-626-2800, O'Dell said.