Family not giving up on finding Avonmore man Copper
Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of stories updating issues from the past year. The stories will appear daily, except Sunday, through the end of the year.
Al Copper III's family isn't giving up.
The 28-year-old Avonmore husband and father hasn't been seen since 4:10 a.m. June 6 when a convenience store camera captured his image.
His wife, Christie, said he left their house at 3:45 a.m. on his way to work.
Later that morning, Copper's blue Hyundai Elantra was found at a natural gas well road, but there hasn't been any sign of Copper despite a three-day search of the nearby Kiski River and rugged, wooded area as well as the tri-state.
“There's no indication that he's anywhere,” laments his mother, Linda Copper of Bell Township. “We still don't know anything more than the day he went missing.”
So what happened to him?
Either he left on his own, or something happened to him, Linda Copper said.
She said he didn't have a girlfriend, enemy or drug habit or even say he was unhappy with his wife and their now 8-month-old son, Emmett.
“Avonmore is small place” police Chief James Shaffer said. “If there had ever been arguing in the home, someone would know. There were never any such reports.”
Even so, the family has made many trips to parts of West Virginia and Ohio, where Al Copper worked previously, to put up fliers asking that anyone who has seen him to call.
In the year before he disappeared, Al Copper was working daily even though he had a head and knee injury from an accident at a former employer's. His teeth were infected. The family wonders if the infection invaded his brain or if the head injury caused him to be hospitalized.
Even though they have visited or talked with hospital officials in several states, federal health privacy laws are working against them.
Unless a patient agrees to be contacted, a hospital can't routinely give out information, Linda Copper said.The family has searched a wooded area near where his car was found.
“We have searched areas that weren't checked in June,” she said. “Family members even went into some of the caves at the bottom of the cliffs. Nothing.”
The family is also trying to sift through conflicting information that surfaced in June.
“What we still can't wrap our brains around is that someone spotted his car parked on the other side of the Avonmore Bridge at 5:45 a.m. that day,” she said. “But the car was found at the gas well road on the side of the hill above the railroad tracks. Who moved it?”
State police Trooper Robert Harr said police are checking tips and have contacted other departments in areas where Copper had previously worked.
Not all tips are useful. A tip on Facebook claiming that Al Copper was abducted was checked and ruled out, he said.
Some days are harder than others for the family to deal with the disappearance, Linda Copper.
“We prop each other up,” she said.
None is giving up the search.
“I can't quit,” Linda Copper said. “One way or another, we have to know where he is. We have to know for Emmett and Christie — if it takes the rest of my life.”
“We're never going to stop looking. There's no other alternative. We just can't believe that someone doesn't know something.
“Please — if you know something, call the police.”
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.