SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — A mother missing and a local family trying not to lose hope.
The mystery is how she managed to vanish in the middle of a huge crowd.
The South Lake Tahoe woman was at a communal event called the Rainbow Gathering in Skamania County, Washington.
She wasn’t alone; she was with people she considered close friends, but that was in July and she hasn’t been seen since.
“There’s nothing else I can hope for,” Billy Hanson tells CBS13 in an interview from his South Lake Tahoe home.
His daughter Tawny Valerie Enterline goes on to say “it gets harder and harder as the time goes by.”
They’re both loved ones who describe Marie Hanson as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, generous to a fault.
Marie was excited about attending a July peace rally called the Rainbow Gathering and rode up with her neighbor Al “Mello” Peck.
Billy says “they weren’t going to make it that night so they were going to pull off and sleep and take off the next morning and she told me they made it that far.
“And that’s the last I spoke to her.”
Billy is now heartbroken.
He stayed behind, unable to travel because of a back injury.
He says Marie had a bad back too and needed help soon after she arrived.
“I just kept her in the tent,” says Mello. “I brought her food. I brought her a massage therapists; people I thought could help her.”
Mello, Marie’s neighbor and traveling companion, says he saw her last leaving the tent to answer the call of nature.
When she didn’t return, he started searching.
“Main Meadow and Main Marsh and Kiddie Village and Lovin’ Ovens and all through the whole place; I searched the whole place twice,” he says.
And then came the call to Marie’s husband.
“He said ‘Billy this is Mello.’ I lost your wife. And it was like a joke and a kick in the head at the same time. What do you mean you lost my wife?”
With 20,000 people, and several people at times reported missing at an event where many get very up close and personal, Marie’s family believes authorities didn’t take their mom’s disappearance very seriously at first.
Billy says in the emptiness that’s followed it has been hard to not to give in to speculation.
“Any scenario could pop into your head.”
Local detectives have now questioned Mello and his girlfriend Cathy.
Marie’s daughter says she isn’t ready to blame anyone in particular, but she’s afraid.
“I think she maybe lost her way to camp and wanted to get home so I think maybe she trusted the wrong person” says Tawny.
Who might that person be?
A sketch of a man identified as a person of interest in this case has been released.
He seems to be quite an identifiable character, wearing silver necklaces with medallions and rings, a dark-colored long coat and carrying a cane.
The family now believes Marie disappeared near the back gate of the gathering on the evening of July 7.
Marie left her purse, her medicine and her family says she would never have left voluntarily.
“She likes the comfort of her home,” says Tawny. “She loves her family, especially her grandchildren.”
In a new twist, a recent Facebook post by a Rainbow family member suggests a Labor Day search turned up some clothing that may have been Marie’s.
If there are more clues to find with winter approaching, family and friends like Carrie Wieland worry time is running out.
“It breaks my heart. I love her,” Wieland says. “I want her to come home. And if she isn’t coming home, I want her to be found.”
Tawny’s wish is simple: “I miss my mom and I want her back, that’s all.”
Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact the sheriff’s department in El Dorado County or in Skamania County, Washington.