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Tuesday
Jun072011

Cops, Friends Search for Missing Iditarod Musher in Alaska

Comstock/Thinkstock(TALKEETNA, Alaska) -- When Melanie Gould didn't show up for work a week ago without checking in, friends took notice, but when they realized the veteran musher's sled dogs uncared for in her empty home, they knew something was really wrong.

Alaska State Troopers and Gould's friends have been searching on the ground and in the air for any clues that might lead to the whereabouts of the woman, 34, who was last seen May 30.

Gould's abandoned truck was found Saturday on a mining road off the remote Denali Highway near Mt. McKinley, but there still has been no trace of the woman herself.

"Considering the circumstances, considering we found her vehicle, we have an active to search through," Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Friends began to worry after Gould missed her shift on May 31 at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, where she worked as a housekeeper.  Talkeetna Roadhouse owner Trisha Costello said it raised flags when she didn't show up for work.

"We talked Monday night [May 30], she even offered to stay late to help me," Costello said.  "She's reliable and conscientious.  She would be mortified to know I had to work the whole day without her."

Friends went to her house to check on her.  Instead, they found her sled dogs in the empty home, food on the table, her cellphone on the counter and laundry hanging dry.

"It looked like as if she just walked away," Costello said.

Neighbors said they saw Gould leave her house the night of May 30 around 8 p.m.  A local taxi driver reported seeing the woman driving north toward the Denali park entrance later that night, according to Costello.

Gould is a seven-time veteran of the Iditarod Trail Dog Race.  She last competed in the race in 2007.  According to friends, her sled dogs are everything to her, so leaving them alone is completely uncharacteristic.

Alaskan authorities say there is no evidence of foul play and police dogs have been unable to trace the woman's scent.  Peters said she believes it's possible that she is just camping, but police will keep searching until they find reason to stop.

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