The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 24, 2012

Dozens still hold hope for man’s safe return

CONNEAUT —  Flickering candles filled a city playground late Sunday night, as nearly 50 people gathered in support of a missing man and his distraught family.

The vigil at Hayward Avenue park was held in honor of Tim Rhodes, 53, who hasn’t been seen for nearly 10 months. People who attended the brief ceremony clung to the hope he hasn’t been harmed and will return home safely.

Family members, wearing T-shirts featuring Rhodes’ photo and name, were gratified by the turnout. “It means a lot to us,” said Missy Cates of Cincinnati, the missing man’s sister.

Pat Rhodes of Conneaut, his stepmother, agreed.

“We have a lot of family and friends lighting candles with us tonight,” she said.

Friends and relatives struggled with their emotions as they took turns talking about Rhodes. Tears flowed freely as they spoke about Rhodes, a father and grandfather who served in the Navy and enjoyed fishing and the outdoors. Rhodes, who worked odd jobs, disappeared from his Beaver Street home on Oct. 5.

“It’s difficult for the family, not knowing where he is,” Cates said. “But we’re not giving up hope. We won’t stop until we get answers.”

Rhodes’ daughter, Shannon Ruffo of Ashtabula, used the analogy of stormy weather to describe the family’s ordeal. Her husband, Larry, read a poem his wife wrote that concluded, “Love you, Dad/Wait and see/We’ll bring you home/Hopefully.”

The family expressed their gratitude to the Conneaut Police Department in general and Detective Sgt. Michael Colby in particular.

After the family finished their remarks, others in the crowd were invited to speak. Many urged people to share any details, any remarks they may overhear regarding Rhodes, with police.

“If anybody knows anything, contact somebody,” said Toni Loveland. “Pay attention. We need to bring Tim home.”

Loveland said she wanted to attend the vigil because Rhodes saved her life years ago.

“I’ve known the family for about 30 years,” she said. “Once I fell in the creek and Tim pulled me out. Without him I’d be dead.”

Police said Rhodes was last seen by a friend with whom he shared a house. All his belongings remain in the house, and the lengthy telephone silence is completely out of character. A search of adjoining neighborhoods turned up nothing, officers said.

People with information to share should call the Conneaut Police Department at 593-7443.

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