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Abduction of Elderly Woman Unnerves Vermont Village


(AP) — After moving to northern Vermont, Pat O'Hagan immersed herself in crafts, kayaking, and volunteering at a local food bank and the historical society. The 78-year-old widow, who lives alone, was so hardy she would go camping by herself, sleeping in a tent.

So when she missed out on a rug-hooking meeting Saturday — no one was home when a friend came to pick her up — it was out of character. Investigators believe she was probably abducted Friday night, and the FBI and State Police are scouring fields, barns and woods in and around Sheffield.

Shaken, people in the sleepy hamlet have taken the unusual step of locking houses and cars, fearing a criminal is on the loose. O'Hagan's family, meanwhile, is pleading for anyone with information to come forward.

"Pat was well known in the community; she was very active. If you knew where she was, what she was doing, what she may not have been doing, please come forward; it's going to help us," son Terry O'Hagan, of Groton, Mass., said at a news conference this week, surrounded by his three brothers and three aunts. "We know that somebody's out there that knows, whether you're involved, whether you're not involved, whether you know, please come forward and help us."

State Police asked the FBI for help and have offered a $5,000 reward. Authorities aren't saying who they think might have abducted O'Hagan, originally from Chelmsford, Mass., or why. But they say there's no reason to believe she just wandered off.

Terry O'Hagan, 47, said his parents moved to Vermont 15 years ago and renovated the house before his father died in 2001. Pat O'Hagan is not rich, according to her son, who says she is "very prudent, frugal."

A Vermont National Guard helicopter on a search buzzed overhead Thursday while police continued their work from a command post set up at the village municipal building. Meanwhile, plans continued for a 5 p.m. chicken pie supper for which O'Hagan had signed up to provide some of the trimmings.

A dozen State Police detectives and two FBI agents were on the scene.

"Detectives are following up on leads, doing interviews, trying to develop any sort of information that would lead us in a direction," said Sgt. Tara Thomas, a State Police spokeswoman.

The disappearance and resulting search are beyond rare for Sheffield, a town of 727 people with no stores and no stoplights.

"It's one of those towns where the sign says 'Entering Sheffield' on one side and 'Leaving Sheffield' on the other," said Vincent Illuzzi, prosecutor in a neighboring county.

Illuzzi, who is not involved in the case, theorizes that if she was abducted it was not random, but by someone who had contact with her in some way.

"It's real scary," said Tammy Jacoby, 47, who lives at the edge of town.

Jacoby said her 12-year-old niece now comes to her house after school instead of going home alone since O'Hagan's disappearance.

Nanette Moreau, 43, who has lived in Sheffield since 1997, said she never locked the doors until now.

"Everybody's scared," she said.

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