Missing Unity woman's burned SUV found near Twin Lakes Park, state police say
On Saturday, Cassandra E. Gross was in good spirits.
She had lunch with friends at the Parkwood Inn Restaurant in Southwest Greensburg that afternoon and was headed back to her Unity apartment, according to her mother, Kathleen Gross. The pair talked by phone that day at about 3:30 p.m.
That's the last time anyone has seen or heard from her.
State police are pleading with Gross, 51, or anyone she may be with, to contact them or Gross' family. Troopers on Tuesday found her red 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander in a wooded area in Hempfield near Twin Lakes Park, but there was no sign of Gross. The SUV had been burned almost beyond recognition, police said.
"We're just concerned about her (and) her well-being," said Trooper Steve Limani said Wednesday during a news conference . "We're concerned that she's OK."
The friends Cassandra had lunch with said she was "in a very good mood," Kathleen Gross said. The family didn't realize anything was amiss until Monday morning, when her husband went to Gross' Edgewater Terrace apartment to let Cassandra's dog outside. Neither the dog nor Gross was there, Kathleen Gross said.
Her daughter didn't show up Monday at her job in Pittsburgh. The dog, which is blind, was found along Beatty County Road, a few miles from the apartment and about 5 miles from the park.
A Norfolk Southern railroad employee reported the burned vehicle to state police around 6 p.m. Tuesday after spotting it from a passing train along a rail line near the park.
"Because the vehicle was so severely charred, it took us until (Wednesday) morning to positively identify the fact that it is ... Cassandra's vehicle," Limani said.
Police are examining it for evidence and trying to determine how the fire occurred.
"It appears that (the SUV) was taken to that location and subsequently it ... was set on fire as it stands right now," he said.
Troopers are still treating the case as a missing person investigation.
"We don't have anything else that would say it's a criminal act," Limani said. "Unfortunately, there's too much that we don't know and, because we have a lot of unknowns, we can't classify it as anything else than a missing person."
Kathleen Gross said she is convinced that her daughter did not run away or commit suicide.
"She was very close to her family," Kathleen Gross said.
She gave police the name of a man who has been bothering Cassandra Gross for the past few months. Cassandra and the man were not in a relationship, Kathleen Gross said. Police said she lived alone and often talked to her mother while commuting to and from work as an executive's assistant.
"I want her brought home, no matter what," her mother said.
Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Gross' SUV in the Twin Lakes area or any other unusual activity. The license plate is HLP 1411.
Anyone with information is asked to call state police in Greensburg at 724-832-3288 or 911.
Renatta Signorini and Joe Napsha are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach her at 724-837-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @byrenatta. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or email@example.com.