Answers still elusive in search of missing Iolan

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December 15, 2017 - 12:00 AM

It’s been four months since Iolan Dennis Lughbough Jr. has disappeared.
The circumstance surrounding his disappearance are as perplexing as they are frustrating.
Here’s what the family knows.
Lushbough, 44, and his girlfriend, Ali “Dawn” Deweese, had been partying the weekend of Aug. 12 and 13, along the banks of the Neosho River, just south of the Neosho-Allen County line.
The excursion meant sleeping along the river’s edge, perhaps grilling some food.
And drugs.
“We know they bought (methamphetamine) on a Friday night,” explained Sherry Russell, Lushbough’s mother. “I don’t know how much it was, but it was apparently enough to last the weekend.”
According to what Deweese told investigators, in the wee hours of that Sunday morning the couple was riding in Lushbough’s van when they got into an argument. Lushbough reportedly dropped off Deweese at the roadside of Harper Road near her sister’s home and drove away.
Deweese was unable to find her sister’s house, and instead was spotted by a Neosho County sheriff’s deputy, who discovered Deweese was wanted on a warrant and took her into custody.
Lushbough was never heard from again.

WITHIN  a day or so, with no word from Lushbough, Deweese and some acquaintances reportedly searched the area, to see if they could find him. When that came up empty, she then started calling his family members, including his mother Russell of Arkansas.
Eventually, authorities were called.
Deputies from both Neosho and Allen counties searched the area over the next several days to no avail.
Things were seemingly at a standstill until 12 days later, the afternoon of Aug. 15, when Lushbough’s van was found, near the corner of 1700 and Arizona roads in southern Allen County. A crop duster, flying low overhead, spotted the vehicle nestled along a row of trees. The trees were so thick the van could not be seen from the road.
The van showed no obvious signs anything criminal had happened. One of the tires was flat and the vehicle was low on gas.
A grill had been set up outside the vehicle.
But with no apparent signs of a crime, deputies returned the van to its owner, Iolan Wanda Brooks, who had been in the process of selling the van to Lushbough.
Therein lies the primary source of frustration for Lushbough’s parents.
It wasn’t until after the van was returned that Deweese found Lushbough’s wallet and cell phone. (The phone had been turned off for several days prior to his disappearance.)
“My thinking, was had they fingerprinted the steering wheel, it might tell us if he or somebody else drove it last,” said Angie Lushbough, wife of Dennis Lushbough Sr. and Dennis Jr.’s stepmother. “Was the tire flat because somebody let the air out, or was it slashed? These are questions that can never be answered.”
A more exhaustive search of the van wasn’t ordered, Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy explained, for a number of reasons. For one, resources are stretched thin both locally and statewide, prohibiting calls for more extensive forensics investigations without proof a prime had occurred.
“People watch ‘CSI’ and say, we need to find some prints,” Murphy said.
However, with no signs of foul play, neither he nor investigators from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation would be willing to use the assets and manpower for more advanced forensics testing.
Searchers again combed the area around the van, and at the Lushbough family’s request about a month ago, brought in search dogs capable of finding cadavers. The dogs searched the area surrounding the van, and hit on dead wildlife, but found so signs of a body.
The Lushboughs remain upset, however, the dogs were not used to search along the Neosho River, and questioned the cooperation between the Allen and Neosho county departments.
A scheduling conflict prevented their use more extensively when the dogs were brought down in mid-November, Murphy explained.
Both he and Neosho County Sheriff Jim Keath rejected the claim, noting investigators have been in touch with each other regularly.
“We’ve had lots of communication between us and Allen County,” Keath said. “We’ve searched all up and down the river.”
Murphy noted the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks also joined in the search in the days after Lushbough’s disappearance, via boat, from Erie to the Allen County line.
“We’ve walked the areas, we’ve searched from the air, they searched from the water,” Murphy said. “The guy has just disappeared.”

MURPHY AGREED with the Lushboughs that he and his department should keep in touch with the family more often to keep them apprised of any new developments, after both Russell and Angie Lushbough bemoaned the sporadic updates.
“I get that they’re frustrated,” Murphy responded, “and I understand it. If it was my kid, I’d be upset, too.
“There’s not a week that goes by where we aren’t talking about this in some way,” the sheriff continued.
As the days stretched into weeks and months, any hope of finding Dennis Jr. alive and healthy has long since disappeared.
“I think we’re looking for a body,” Russell said. “I figured that after a couple of days of not hearing from him.”

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