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Cold case mystery: Where is George Fisher?

George Fisher vanished in 2003. His family never notified police. That forced investigators to dig into his disappearance in an attempt to find out if foul play was involved. (Photo Courtesy: Michigan State Police)

OTSEGO COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) --Choking back tears, Faye Hoig sits in her living room and reflects on what life has been like since her brother’s disappearance. "Real hard, I think if I didn't have my girls and my husband, I still think he is alive, you don't have a body to show me, you don't have anything to tell me," explained Faye.

Faye Hoig has hope that her brother, George Fisher's 2003 disappearance from his property outside of Gaylord wasn't the result of foul play. That for some unknown reason he did just decide to leave town without telling anyone and that for the past 16 years he has been living his life with no contact to his past. Faye said, "I hope that he is alive. I really do down in my heart. It tells me that he is somewhere and someone knows something and if they would just call."

Faye isn’t the only one searching for answers in George’s disappearance. Detective Sargent Richard Rule with the Michigan State Police has been working the case as well. "There are 2 sides of this, he left of his own free will and killed himself or has died naturally or accidentally or something bad happened," explained Rule. Detective Sargent Rule is wrapping up his 30 year plus career with the State Police and would like nothing more than to be able to solve this case and provide closure to George Fisher's family. Rule said, "The old saying is that everything is solvable over time, and enough effort and resources put to it, but realistically that is not always true."

Back in her living room, Faye remembers the brother who she grew up with. “He was soft-spoken, sometimes well mannered. People used to think he was a motorcycle guy because of the bald head, a rough guy, but he really wasn't. He was nice, down to earth kid," explains Faye. She remembers him as a gentle giant, but even she admits he had his moments. Flip through the hundreds of pages that make up the state police investigation into his disappearance, through the interviews with Fisher's sons, ex-wife and former friends, you’ll read that he could be a difficult man to love, accusations that he was anti-social and borderline abusive. Maybe that's why when he seemingly disappeared from his home back in 2003, no one went to the police to report it. In interviews, his family says, that George, without telling anyone, just left it all behind.

“Didn't take his wallet, didn't take his license, didn't take his ID, didn't take his social security number, nothing," explained Faye. The only thing gone from his 18-acre land was him, and the only people who seemed to know it was his family.

Sitting at his desk, flipping through the George Fisher case file, Detective Rule admits there are some things about this case that sparked concern. "I would say that there are some things that are atypical. In most, the thing that sticks out the most is when you have a missing person, someone in that family calls, but if you look at the case from 2003 to 2006 no one was beating the door down to the State Police saying “Hey are you looking? What have you done the last six months?”

George Fisher vanished in 2003 but police weren't even notified of it until 2006. Three years for George Fisher's possible trail to grow cold. That apparent lack of concern by some family members raised the questions for investigators: Did Fisher leave his property on his own free will to start a new life somewhere else or did he die here as the result of foul play? "Since 2006 every known person that would know George has been interviewed. His sister, his 2 sons, his wife, the wife's new husband, other friends," says Rule. Those interviews produced as many new questions as answers and left detectives wondering if Fisher never actually left home alive. Did someone in the family want him dead? Was there an accident and a cover-up? They focused some of their efforts on the property where George lived. Rule said, "At this point, we have done everything that we can do we believe in regard to the property. We brought in equipment, we brought in K9s, we brought in about 20 other individuals to help with a coordinated systematic search of the property."

Those efforts turned up nothing. They also started chasing down possible leads in Arizona and Alaska, places George Fisher had possible connections. Again, nothing definitive for investigators to work with.

Time is a double-edged sword when it comes to a missing person. While it’s true it makes it harder to get evidence and clues if a crime was committed, it also makes it more likely that a person who choose to leave changes his mind, or perhaps slips up and is found. As it turns out, it's easy to disappear but only for a while. Rule stressed, "Maybe for six months, a year, two years, but 15 years? That raises the question, where is George?"

George Fisher's disappearance took a toll on those who truly loved him. 15 years with questions for a sister to wonder what happened to the brother she loved. "If you don't have a body, my brother is still out there, I guess I will think that forever until I hear different," explains Faye.

His being gone has hurt and some family members say being questioned if they had a role in it has kept that wound from healing. The State Police say they can understand that feeling. "We want the family to understand that the State Police did some things that they felt were not appropriate or accusatory, for that I am sorry, but sometimes with our job we have to do that," said Rule.

Today, most of the family is done talking with police. Right now, there aren't any more clues to be found on the property. The case will most likely be handed on to the detective that replaces Rule. "We are pretty much at the same point we were in 2006. We don't know where George is and we have some theories and none of them are 100%- percent and we are not confident any way we look at it," said Rule.

A detective looking for ghost and a sister looking for an answer.

If you have any information about George Fisher you can contact the Michigan State Police Regional Dispatch at 1-989-732-5141.

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