By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
The sub-zero, wintery days make Georgeann Hammond worry even more about her younger brother, even though she knows it’s not rational.
Her 65-year-old younger brother John has been missing since mid-November. The Thermopolis man had gone on an overnight fishing and camping trip with his long-time friend at the Miracle Mile, outside Casper, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
His friend said John had just walked off. That or gotten lost in the shuffle. Apparently, there had been a couple other people there as well who had driven in a separate vehicle and both thought John had gotten into the other car when they drove from the river to their campsite. When they went back to search for him, he was nowhere to be found.
All Georgeann knows is what police have told her: Hammond was last seen on Nov. 6 camping and fishing in the Sage Creek drainage area in an area north of the Miracle Mile fishing bridge in an area locally known as Walleye Bay.
Numerous foot, drone and helicopter searches conducted for the Carbon County Sherriff and other law enforcement turned up nothing. Georgeann said that the detective on her brother’s case, Dale Miller, has gone out of his way to both to commit resources to the search for John and to keep her informed of the progress.
In between, there have been numerous rumors of malfeasance on the part of the friend or other people in the group as well as a couple sightings – including one at a casino on the Wind River Reservation – but so far police have evidence of neither, Georgeann said.
As to what really happened, Georgeann has no idea, only to say that her brother is out there somewhere – either dead or alive.
She’s learned about his disappearance after John’s long-time friend who had been with him came to see if Georgeann, who also lives in Thermopolis, had seen her brother. He told her he waited a few days to see if John turned up because he didn’t want to get anyone worried or annoy John if he’d intended to wander off on his own and not be bothered.
It wasn’t completely unlike John to have done so, his sister said. In the past, he up and left for a month to help a friend move to Oregon and didn’t tell anyone until he returned home.
When he returned, he was surprised to learn that his family had been worried. He told his sister he was “a grown-ass man” who didn’t feel the need to check in with them if he wanted to take a little trip.
John – or “John John” as he is affectionately called in the community – was a bit of an unconventional guy, Georgeann admitted, a bit of drifter who made do with odd jobs to support himself but had been in the process of filing for social security now that he was of the age to do so. His application was nearly finished when he disappeared.
He was known to drink and smoke marijuana, Georgeann said, but she didn’t think he was involved in any harder drugs.
If you needed anything, Georgeann said, John was your guy. Generous almost to a fault.
What people might not know about her brother is that he was also a gifted linguist. When he was a student at Hot Spring County High School, he spoke four languages. He was so talented that the U.S. Air Force recruited him in 1974 and put him through language school, where he became fluent in Russian and served during the Vietnam War.
Once out of the service John came home and worked odd jobs, mostly to support his love of books and classic rock music. He was an encyclopedia on both and often hung out at libraries.
When he disappeared, that’s one of the first places Georgeann checked to see if there had been any activity on his Wyoming library card. There hadn’t, which to her suggests he never came back from the fishing trip.
He had been married in 2001, but his wife died eight years later of cancer. When his dad had a stroke and needed in-home care, John had been the sibling out of the three of them who moved in to take care of him.
“That’s the kind of guy John was,” his sister said. “He’s awesome. The good-hearted, old boy.”
He also had impeccable outdoor survival skills, Georgeann said, which were instilled in all three kids from a young age. Their dad and mother, who was a police dispatcher and matron, taught them to shoot guns, build a shelter, make a fire and do anything else to survive should you get lost in the woods.
Given John’s skills, his sister is left to think that either someone hurt him and left him out there or he hurt himself, perhaps falling into a ravine and hurting his leg so he couldn’t get out.
She’s driven out there herself, and as a former land surveyor, knows how many places a person could get lost of hidden amongst the craggy sagebrush. She plans to continue looking her search.
“I don’t believe he just would have walked off,” Georgeann said. “It makes no sense.”
John was last seen wearing a baseball cap, blue jeans, a dark gray jacket, brown suede shoes with tennis shoe soles and a T-shirt of unknown color. He had no cell phone.
He’s described as being 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing about 195 pounds with hazel eyes and curly, brown-gray hair.
The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office told Cowboy State Daily that John’s case remains active and officers encourage anyone with information to contact CCSO Detective Dale Miller at (307) 328-7743.