Missing Military Reporter Walked 75 Miles to Richmond

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By: Joe Strupp

Editor Ernie Gates of The Daily Press in Newport News, Va. says he’s relieved that missing reporter Ward L. Sanderson has been found after dropping out of sight two weeks ago. But he remains concerned about the reporter, who apparently quit without telling anyone, gave up his car in a bank parking lot, and walked some 75 miles to Richmond, Va.

“We’re still very concerned,” Gates told E&P in a voice mail message. “We understand he is in Richmond, but we are still concerned. We are concerned that he is able to get help if he needs it.”

E&P first reported Wednesday that Sanderson, 35, had been located in Richmond by a friend in Florida who had contacted him via e-mail. After the friend informed Sanderson that he’d been listed as a missing person by the paper, Sanderson called editors and told them he had quit and was now living in Richmond.

“He didn’t feel like a missing person. He wondered why we thought that,” Gates said in a Daily Press story published Thursday. “He said he’s in Richmond looking for other employment.”

In e-mails to friends and several to E&P, Sanderson said he had quit his job because of ethical issues, but did not elaborate on them.

“I didn’t know I was ‘missing’ until today, when I read it in my e-mail,” he wrote to E&P. “I just moved to Richmond this month. I wanted to move before all of my things were delivered to my apartment from Europe so I wouldn’t be stuck in a situation I didn’t want to be in. The job and area did not work out for me.”

Sanderson also told E&P that he didn’t formally resign but “I was certain my bosses knew I was leaving.” When asked why he believed they knew, he wrote back “From comments and things I’d gotten from colleagues.”

Gates contends that editors were never told he had quit and said he could not determine what ethical issues Sanderson had been talking about. “We have been going around and around trying to decide what he might have meant and we are at a loss,” Gates told E&P. “If there were issues, he hasn’t raised them. We would be interested in knowing more.”

Sanderson had been missing since May 31, when he last showed up for work at the paper, where he covered military affairs. Editors filed a missing person’s report on him June 3 and published a story about his disappearance Tuesday.

After Sanderson’s disappearance, speculation about why he dropped out of site had grown. He sparked concern when police found his car parked at a local bank, with the keys dropped in a night deposit box, along with a note saying he did not need the car anymore.

Someone also mailed his Daily Press employee identification card back to the paper, with no explanation.

A Daily Press employee since March, Sanderson had previously worked for Stars & Stripes, where he endured several assignments covering the Iraq War while based at one of the paper’s Germany bureaus. Gates said he had shown no signs of suffering from any war-related problems or other emotional distress.

Police who had been working to find Sanderson told the paper they would close the missing person’s case once they determine Sanderson is in Richmond at is choosing. “If everything checks out, we’ll probably close the case,” police spokesman Lou Thurston told the paper. “Yes, there was a lot of time and effort put into it. We’re very happy this puts it to rest.”

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