Atchison couple missing for a year

ATCHISON — Family members and law enforcement are still trying to figure out what happened to an elderly northeast Kansas couple who disappeared from their home a year ago.

Billie "Bob" Black, 74, and his wife, Mary Black, 72, left Atchison in their car on Sept. 11, 2009, and have not been heard from since.

Atchison County Undersheriff Larry Myer told the Topeka Capital-Journal there was no evidence of foul play, and his department has done several searches.

"That case has puzzled me for a long time," Myer said.

The Blacks were the first Kansas subjects of a Silver Alert, a program modeled after Amber Alerts issued for abducted children. The Silver Alert is issued when a person 65 or older or someone suffering from dementia is reported missing.

Mary Black suffers from Alzheimer's, and Bob Black has severe diabetes, relatives said.

Law enforcement officials conducted air searches and dragged area lakes and rivers. Bob Black's brother, Buddy Black, and other family members traveled to Atchison to hand out fliers there and in surrounding communities.

Possible sightings were reported at casinos in Kansas City, Mo., and in several towns across Kansas, Myer said. But the leads didn't turn up anything.

"You wish you knew what happened. How long do you wait to have a memorial service?" said Buddy Black. "I don't know if they will ever be found. I don't think it's very likely."

Buddy Black said Bob Black had watched his mother and mother-in-law suffer from Alzheimer's, and was upset about his own health. Bob Black had a severe case of diabetes, was missing some toes, took insulin daily, had difficulty walking and didn't see well.

"He was fed up," said Buddy Black, who added that he thinks he knows what ultimately happened.

"They're in the river," he said. "Where else would they be? We've gone through a year. I want to think it was an accident. But in the forefront of my mind, I think it was deliberate."

Myer said speculation doesn't affect the status of the case.

"The case remains open," he said. "It will remain open."