COLUMBIA, S.C. - Park Kingery thought the worst when his wife, who had been fighting depression, left their house leaving behind only a short note in September. Twelve weeks later, he has realized not knowing anything can be more painful than his worst fears.
Tammy Kingery has not been seen since leaving the house without her keys, purse or cellphone a few hours after coming home from work early on Sept. 20. Park Kingery is offering a $4,000 reward, but he isn't sure for how long. His wife brought in the most money, the money came out of his retirement account and there are bills to pay.
"This is a nightmare. If I could just get a phone call saying, 'I'm OK,"' Park Kingery said in a calm, measured voice. "I'm trying to keep it together for our kids, and I do a pretty good job. But when I get by myself, it is really tough."
Tammy Kingery hasn't used a phone, debit card or credit card since the day she disappeared, Edgefield County Sheriff's spokesman Cpl. Robbie Harter said. Investigators don't have a sense of whether she is alive or dead. No one is the focus of the investigation, but no one is beyond questioning, either, Harter said.
A special hotline has been established, but not much has come out of it. "We've got no kind of leads at all," Harter said.
Park Kingery doesn't like social media. But he is all over Twitter and Facebook, pleading for information about his wife. He can tick off all the leads investigated in several states that haven't panned out - his wife was seen walking along Interstate 20 a few miles away; a trucker picked his wife up in Alabama and dropped her off in Mississippi; she climbed into a car just outside their home.
He also is quite aware that he is under scrutiny. He has been criticized for not being upset enough or going out with friends to try and forget the pain for a while.
"That's fine. People can say want they want to say," Kingery said. "I just want to keep her name and face out there."
Tammy Kingery is among thousands of adults every year who seem to disappear without a trace in the U.S. More than 84,000 people entered into the FBI's database of missing people since it was developed in 1975 have never been removed. Park Kingery has heard from loved ones of some of those people. He is glad to have their friendship and support, but wishes it was under different circumstances.
Tammy Kingery came home from her work as a nurse early not feeling well the last day she was seen. Her husband said he wanted to give her a chance to rest, so he took their 4-year-old and 13-year-old sons with him to run errands. When they returned after a few hours, Park Kingery said, he couldn't find his wife. There was a note on the kitchen table: "Went for a walk. Be back soon. Love you."
Immediately, Park Kingery thought his wife of 17 years left to harm herself. When he called police after three hours of frantic searching through the thick woods around his house, he told Edgefield County deputies she took a large amount of medicine while drinking the week before, but he wasn't sure if it was on purpose or an accident, according to a police report. The report doesn't specify what medication she took.
The State Law Enforcement Division brought in helicopters to search. Bloodhounds ran through the woods, going on the scent of the clothes Tammy Kingery was wearing when she came home from work. They found nothing.
Over the next several weeks, more searches were organized. Volunteers carefully picked through the thick brush around the couple's home. Nothing turned up. The searches are now on hold because it's hunting season.
In the first weeks after her disappearance Tammy Kingery's father came down to South Carolina from Indiana to help look for her. During interviews he gave in early October, Phil Russell said his daughter didn't talk about any problems in her marriage or depression in his life. He can't figure out how she could have left the house walking and harmed herself in two hours and remain missing. He vowed to never stop looking for her.
"She's a family person. At her work, she's very responsible ... She's just good ol' standby Tammy," Russell told WJBF-TV.
The Associated Press couldn't reach Russell this week, and he doesn't appear to have spoken to reporters since then.
Tammy Kingery's youngest son turned 5 just days after she disappeared. Last weekend, he helped his dad put up the Christmas tree, and they made sure her stocking was hanging on the mantel. The couple's 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter tell their dad they keep themselves busy so they don't have to continually think about what may have happened to their mom.
"You would have thought - if that would have happened - she would have been found by now," Park Kingery said.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.