GARDINER — Every day, Shauna Drashcovich wakes up and hopes.

She hopes she will hear something about her daughter, Megan Gregory.

She hopes someone will have seen her daughter.

She hopes that if they have, they will call the police and let them know.

She hopes Gregory, who turned 28 less than two weeks after she was seen last, comes back willing to let her parents help her.

She hopes Gregory has a chance to fulfill her dream of working with animals.

She hopes, and hoping gives her strength.

She hopes.

A TROUBLED PAST

Police say the last verified sighting of Gregory occurred June 5 in Augusta.

Shauna and Michael Drashcovich have since learned someone saw her June 6, when she was seen getting into an SUV outside the Edwards House Inn on Water Street in Augusta. Police have not been able to verify that.

No one knows which way the vehicle went.

The Drashcoviches, who had been estranged from Gregory since January, found out she disappeared only when her boyfriend, distraught, came to tell them a day after he last saw her, and that’s when they called the police.

“We don’t know what led her to this point,” Shauna Drashcovich said.

On a cool day last week, the Drashcoviches sat in the Gardiner Common, often holding hands for support, and talked about their missing daughter.

When Gregory was growing up, Shauna said, her daughter was happy, outgoing and social. She loved her three brothers and adventure. Her love of animals emerged early, and growing up in Florida, she had a lot of pets.

Gregory’s most distinctive feature is her bright blue eyes. That wouldn’t change even if she changed her hair. When she was last seen, it was blond and styled in long dreadlocks. At 5 feet, 4 inches tall, she towers over her mother.

Five years ago, when Gregory packed her pets at the time — two dogs, two prairie dogs and tortoise — and all of her belongings into her Honda Civic and headed north to make a new start in Maine, the Drashcoviches already knew she had a drinking problem.

They had come to Maine in 2008, transferred here by the Navy, and they stayed after Michael Drashcovich retired from the service about three years later.

Gregory had amassed about 130 college credits, but not enough in any one subject to get a degree. She started studying marine biology, then switched to zoology. While she was going to school, she was also working in sports bars and drinking.

She had been married briefly to someone she’d gone to high school with, and she had been taking cocaine.

“She got mixed up in the wrong setting,” Shauna Drashcovich said. “She chose to change that setting and she came up here to change her life around.”

For a while, it seemed like a change would come. Gregory waitressed and interned for a while at a wildlife facility in southern Maine. They believed she would go back to college.

About a year ago, one of Gregory’s friends told them about their daughter’s overdoses, which had happened a year earlier. She had become addicted to heroin. There had been signs, but they could put the pieces together only later.

“Once we learned about it and we confronted her, she wanted to change, and of course it never surfaced,” Shauna Drashcovich said.

Getting help was a hurdle Gregory couldn’t seem to cross. At 26, Gregory was too old to be covered by her parents’ insurance, and she had none of her own. In Maine, treatment options are limited.

Her parents say her biggest hurdle seemed to be herself.

“One day, she wanted help, and the next she just … She always kept telling me, ‘Mom, I’m happy.’ I have always wanted nothing but my kids to be happy,” she said. “I am sure it has to do with the addiction. In her head she felt she was happy and everything was good.”

Gregory tried again to get her life on track last fall. She moved to New York, where her father and her brother live, and sought treatment.

That didn’t work out.

Shauna Drashcovich said Gregory is strong-willed and doesn’t like anyone telling her she’s not in control or that she needs help.

Gregory returned to Maine after four months, angry with her family in New York.

She needed a place to stay, but her mother drew the line. With a teenager at home, she didn’t want her youngest child to be exposed to the drinking and the drugs. Gregory could come for a meal, or to wash her clothes, but she couldn’t live with them anymore. She started couch-surfing in Augusta, in Gardiner and in Bath and she cut off all contact with her family.

Since January, they have seen her twice. In May, they ran into her at the Hannaford supermarket in Gardiner. Shortly afterward, they went to the IHOP restaurant in Augusta, and by pure chance, Gregory was their waitress. She acknowledged her parents and hugged her brother.

“I’ve been told by many people the best thing is to let them hit rock bottom,” her mother said. “Unfortunately, rock bottom for her is disappearing.”

“We would just like someone to come forward,” Shauna Drashcovich said. “Just call.”

At the end of July, Shauna Drashcovich said, her heart dropped when she heard a woman was found dead next to a road in Cherryfield. Not long afterward, the woman was identified as Sally Shaw, 55. Two people from New York have been charged with her murder.

She has joined an online group of parents of addicts. One woman said her son showed up after 14 months, and another woman said her daughter showed up after five years.

Although the Drashcoviches hope, they are not fooling themselves.

Waiting is the hardest part. To pass the time, Shauna scans crime pages of Northeastern states.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” her husband said.

“It’s my way of feeling like I am doing something, at least,” she said.

Michael Drashcovich said he also scans the pages, but not as often. And unlike his wife, it doesn’t shut him down for a whole day.

“Yeah, she’s my stepdaughter, but I have raised her since she was 7,” he said. “I have known her since she was a child.”

“We just want her back safely,” he said.

ONGOING INVESTIGATION

Gardiner police Chief James Toman said Gregory’s disappearance is unusual in a couple of ways.

One is the duration. Most reports about missing people are from worried parents who haven’t seen a child in several hours, or from friends or relatives of someone who has taken off for a night or two.

On Tuesday, Gregory will have been gone three months.

The other is the complete lack of direct sightings.

“Since we have gone public in our search for Megan, we’ve had a lot of unsubstantiated sightings that we try to track and see if we can confirm, but it’s very difficult,” he said.

The tips that come in are often second- or thirdhand, and they are often delayed by a day or more.

“Just call us,” Toman said. “If someone thinks they see her in Augusta or Gardiner or Lewiston or Portland or wherever, it’s extremely important to for them to call the local authorities immediately so that we can go or the agency in that jurisdiction can go and verify if it’s Megan or not.”

Detective Sgt. Todd Pilsbury said there has been no contact between Megan and anyone the police have spoken to or family members.

“The concerning part is that it’s nothing. Total cutoff. The boyfriend has heard nothing,” Pilsbury said.

Pilsbury and Toman are convinced that someone knows something but isn’t saying anything.

“Turn the tables,” Pilsbury said. “What if this was one of your family or relatives? Do the right thing.”

The Gardiner Police Department is one of the agencies that’s searching for Gregory. It’s a cooperative effort of police agencies across the state.

“There are many possibilities,” Toman said, “but at this point, we can neither prove or disprove anything.”

Augusta police Detective Christopher Guay also has been investigating Gregory’s disappearance.

“The most difficult thing is we don’t have a definite area she was last seen,” Guay said. “There’s no last point of contact.

Guay said Gregory is considered transient because she had no permanent address and was couch surfing with friends in the area. She worked in Augusta briefly before her disappearance.

“It’s important that anyone with any information about the last time she was seen come forward,” he said. “They can remain anonymous.”

The Gardiner police update the Drashcoviches regularly, passing on what they have found.

The police brought them a photo pulled off a security camera of a Walmart in Brewer, where someone thought Gregory was seen. It was not she.

The Drashcoviches contacted police with what they have learned, and some of it is troubling.

Shauna Drashcovich said they were contacted on Facebook by someone claiming Gregory was being held against her will, being pimped out in a Western state and demanding cash for her return.

Toman said the police are using all of their investigative abilities and resources to follow up on any information that will help find Gregory.

“Our only goal is to locate Megan,” he said. “Everything else is really secondary.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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