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Missing woman back home after search

| Friday, July 6, 2001

After being missing for about 24 hours, all the Forward Township woman could tell her husband early Thursday was, 'sorry,' when he noticed her sitting on the front porch muddy, barefoot and covered with briars, police said.

Carol Strotman, 39, of Bunola River Road, eluded more than 100 volunteer firefighters, teams of search dogs, scuba divers and a helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera during a 12-hour search Wednesday that was called off at 4:30 p.m.

Strotman, who was not seriously injured, is being evaluated at Jefferson Hospital, Jefferson Hills.

'My theory is that somehow, in her weakened state, she got outside the perimeter before we got the full complement of searchers out there,' said Forward Township police Chief Thomas Staley.

The perimeter searched by the volunteers stretched a mile on either side of the family's home and to the shoreline of the river.

Footprints were found going into the Monongahela River and a search dog did lose Strotman's scent at the waterline, police said.

'She doesn't even know where she was,' Staley said. 'All she could tell her husband was, 'sorry, sorry,' when she saw how excited he was to see her on the porch at 4:15 a.m.

'Apparently, she was disoriented and confused due to an anti-cancer medication she was taking. The side effects include anxiety and depression,' Staley said.

The couple have two children; Cassie, 8; and Sam, 2 months. Mrs. Strotman was diagnosed with skin cancer while pregnant and began treatment after the baby was born.

Officials are putting the hours of fruitless searching behind them and are hoping Mrs. Strotman has a full recovery.

'I'm glad it turned out the way it did,' Staley said. 'You can't put a price on a human life.'

Curtis Strotman, husband of the missing woman and chief of the Bunola Volunteer Fire Department, searched for his wife for about an hour before calling police at 3:30 a.m. He was not available for comment yesterday, but his mother was.

'He's getting some sleep. It's been a hectic two days,' said Marilyn Strotman, grandmother of the couple's two children. 'We would like to thank everyone for their help and support. God is good. So many times it doesn't turn out well. We're very thankful.'

Rose A. Domenick can be reached at rdomenick@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8521.

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