As the search for Nyawuor Chuol enters its third week, police are ramping up efforts to find the missing Mankato woman.
Chuol, also known as “Sunday,” was last seen April 25 by her mother as she left home to walk to a nearby store. She never returned and didn’t respond to messages.
Investigators learned that Chuol had been dropped off at the Eagle Lake Casey’s store that same night by a ride share. She was captured on store surveillance walking around the parking lot before crossing Highway 14. That expanded the search outside of Mankato, bringing the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s office into the search efforts.
A joint media briefing was held Wednesday morning with the sheriff’s office and the Mankato Department of Public Safety. With Sunday’s family present, Blue Earth County Captain Paul Barta gave a detailed account of the search for Chuol.
Drone, water, and foot searches have been performed in the areas around Casey’s. A helicopter and shallow-water boats were also provided by state agencies to aid in the search.
Specialty equipment has been brought in according to Barta, including boats with side-scan sonar. Nothing suggests that Nyawuor Chuol was in the water, he says.
Searchers combed a section of the Sakatah State Trail and some nearby railroad tracks during the first and second days. Swampy, wooded areas near the Walmart Distribution Center were also searched Wednesday.
Barta said investigators have had conversations about what else could have happened to Chuol. “What if Sunday was picked up hitchhiking or walking along the shoulder of the road,” he theorized. “There isn’t a way to rule that out right now.” He said law enforcement needs to focus on completing the search in the area where she was last seen and be open to other possibilities. But he noted that he has seen nothing at this point to indicate foul play.
Chuol’s phone last pinged from the Madison Lake tower. She had traveled to two other lakes prior to Eagle Lake the day she disappeared. She apparently told her driver that she was interested in going to the actual lake, and not the city of Eagle Lake.
Police have been in contact with the Minnesota Search & Rescue Team, a Christian-based faith organization, that is considering joining in the search. Cadaver dogs could also assist in the search.
Investigators say they’ve received about 14 tips between the two agencies. One of those tips led authorities to expand the search into some of the areas surrounding the walking trail that runs parallel to Madison Ave (Co Rd 17) from Eagle Lake to Mankato, but it ultimately led nowhere.
Barta is asking residents in the search area and beyond to check out buildings, sheds, garages and even campers stored on rural properties.
Nye Chuol, the sister of Nyawuor, said hope is the only thing her family has right now. “You don’t want your mind to go to those dark places,” she said.
Nyawuor Chuol’s family has scheduled two searches for friends and the public. Anyone interested in joining the efforts should meet at the Eagle Lake Casey’s at 10 a.m. on Thursday and/or Saturday.
Anyone with information on the disappearance of Nyawuor Chuol should contact police or call 911.