Still waiting for Jo to come home

Family and friends are left hoping for missing Clarksburg woman's return

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GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE .
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CLARKSBURG — On the morning of March 3, Chad Reidy said he came home after working the night shift at the Big Y supermarket in Pittsfield. He was expecting his wife, Joanne "Jo" Ringer, to arrive soon from her first shift driving a taxi overnight in Easthampton, so he started making her favorite breakfast: eggs, corned beef hash, toast and bacon.

But Ringer never came home and hasn't been heard from since. Reidy still finds himself looking out the window, hoping to see his wife coming up the unpaved road that dead-ends at their house in this northern Berkshire County town that borders Vermont.

Standing in Ringer's dressing room on Monday — the one-year anniversary of their first date — Reidy dejectedly looked at her heaping piles of clothes and expansive video game collection neatly tucked away upstairs in the cozy country home he had just purchased last fall.

"I come in from time to time," the 42-year old said, holding back a sob. "I sit where she would sit and just think."

A 39-year-old who loves everything from scrapbooking and baking to motorcycle maintenance, Ringer's disappearance on March 2 has vexed family, friends, police and the small communities of Clarksburg and her hometown of Easthampton.

Reidy and others believe that he is the last person known to have seen Ringer before she went missing. Her dark green 2001 Volkswagen Jetta sedan was later found abandoned in Easthampton.

Daily reminders

Now, remains of the things she loved are daily reminders of her continued and unexplained absence: her two jovial English mastiffs, Blu and Fuko, lumbering around on the property's two acres; in the garage, her broken-down Meyers Manx Volkswagen dune buggy, which Reidy said police stood on while they searched the premises; and in the unfinished basement, her expansive scrapbooking table, which Reidy said he now tries to avoid looking at when doing laundry.

"Coping is very difficult," he said, the sight of all those things bringing back memories. Even grocery shopping brings on severe anxiety attacks. "I don't know if I'm shopping for one or two."

Reidy said he met Ringer in fall 2015 at a Northampton AutoZone, drawn together by their shared love of Volkswagen vehicles. After starting to date in March 2016, the two got married in a civil ceremony on Dec. 13 in Bennington, Vt.

"She proposed to me, and I immediately said yes," Reidy said. "We eloped, essentially."

Ringer had recently worked as a model and was a bartender, but she was looking for a better job when she was hired to work the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift at Aaron's Paradise Transportation in Easthampton, commuting the 75 minutes from Clarksburg. Before ever arriving for her first night of work, she went missing.

"She never showed up, and we never saw her," Aaron's Paradise Transportation owner Scott Bellemore told the Gazette. "I got drivers that come and go, and sometimes they don't show up. So I kind of felt like, `Just another driver that didn't want to work.'"

But those who know Ringer said she seemed excited about the opportunity. Her 19-year-old daughter, Savanah Ringer, said her mother wanted her to work there with her.

"I had talked to her on Tuesday and she told me that she was going to drop off an application at my grandmother's house," Savanah said. She never did.

Reidy said the last time he saw his wife was the day of her disappearance. They had finished their morning chores and breakfast when Ringer got a phone call and left the house to visit someone, Reidy said. Reidy left to visit friends in Worthington, and when he returned to the house around 1 p.m., he said Ringer wasn't there. Her phone provider had shut off her cellphone service because of an unpaid bill she disputed, so she could only be contacted when connected to WiFi, according to her family.

Reidy said that when Ringer didn't come home, he worriedly called her and sent messages. Eventually he drove down to Easthampton to look for her, only to learn that she had never come in to work. The next day, he called police to report her missing.

Many questions

Easthampton and Clarksburg are just two of a number of towns across western Massachusetts and Connecticut where Ringer had lived and worked over the years, friends and family said. The extensive connections Ringer had throughout the region have left her loved ones, and possibly investigators, with many questions as they try to figure out what happened to her.

A spokesman for the Berkshire district attorney's office said there was no new information to report to the public, and declined to discuss specifics of the case.

Reidy said police had taken electronics from their house, and had recently returned an iPad.

A dedicated team of Ringer's loved ones are fighting to keep her story in the public eye; they are distributing fliers, spreading the word on social media and encouraging people to call investigators with even the smallest details they may have.

"I'm really worried and I'm scared because it's been so long," said Savanah, Ringer's daughter. "But I know that I have to keep my head up and I have to be strong, and that's what she would want."

Savanah said she hasn't heard any updates from police, but knows that people are still calling in and she hopes they keep doing so.

"It's like, surreal," Ringer's friend since fourth grade, Ginger Plantier, said at her Hatfield apartment on Tuesday, a Hello Kitty ring that Jo gave her visible on her finger as she wiped tears from her face. "It's kind of like everything is in limbo."

Plantier said the two had been making plans to visit Foxwoods Resort Casino, and that Ringer had been messaging her the night of Feb. 27 after a scrapbooking session. The last message came around 1:15 a.m., after which she seemingly abandoned the conversation. That was the last time Plantier heard from her.

"This is not typical Jo behavior," Plantier said. "When I left Jo on Monday from scrapbooking, she left me homework to do for the next time I went up there." She hasn't started on any of it.

Plantier, Reidy and Savanah said they are satisfied with the state police and their ongoing investigation, even though they can sometimes feel left in the dark.

"They have not forgotten either," Plantier said of law enforcement. But despite the resources that authorities and they themselves are pouring into the case, she said it just isn't enough as the one-month anniversary of Ringer's disappearance approaches with no answers.

Outside investigative help

Into that gap has stepped the nonprofit organization Halos Investigations, which has now also taken the case and is soliciting tips on an anonymous hotline.

Rebecca Wozniak, 43, is a case manager for the organization, and said that Halos can be a valuable resource because some people might not feel comfortable contacting law enforcement.

"People don't just disappear," Wozniak said, urging people to call in.

"Somebody knows something," Plantier added. "And somebody has done something."

That's what Reidy is afraid of, too. "I honestly think someone has her," he said crying.

The road leading away from Ringer and Reidy's home was muddy from the rain on Monday, a gray mist hanging in the air as the morning's rain lifted. Reidy said they bought the place just in time to settle in for the approaching winter. Now that spring has arrived, he's alone to care for the dogs, chickens and ducks.

"I don't know whether I should go out and distract myself, or whether I should sit here and pray that she comes home," he said at his kitchen table.

"Missing person" fliers hang from two wooden utility poles where the muddy path met the paved road. Ringer's face — framed by purple-streaked hair — kept watch over the path out of Clarksburg.


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