NORTH YARMOUTH — The mysterious disappearance of a 47-year-old elementary school teacher has sent her family and friends reeling as teams of detectives descended on her rural neighborhood Tuesday and volunteers helped search the densely wooded area near her North Yarmouth home.

Kristin Westra

Kristin Westra, a teacher at Chebeague Island School, was last seen at the family’s home on Lufkin Road when she went to bed with her husband, Jay, around 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

She was nowhere to be found when her husband woke up Monday morning, although her vehicle, cellphone and keys were still at home, a family member and police said.

Jay Westra drove to the nearby North Yarmouth Fire Department on Walnut Hill Road around 9 a.m. Monday to report his wife missing, according to Lt. Mark Holmquist of the Maine State Police.

Holmquist said the search for Westra was suspended around 6 p.m. Tuesday partly due to weather conditions and because of information detectives gathered Tuesday during their investigation. Holmquist said the search for Westra might not resume Wednesday.

The search “is tentative at this point based on the information that has come into us,” Holmquist said during a telephone interview Tuesday night from the fire station on Walnut Hill Road. “The weather has been difficult to deal with and it is part of the equation, for sure.”

Holmquist declined to elaborate on why the search might not continue Wednesday other than to say that teams have scoured “a very large coverage area.” He said it is “too soon” to say that Westra’s disappearance is suspicious.

Fourteen detectives from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the state police spent Tuesday chasing down tips, interviewing friends and relatives and probing into Westra’s life and background in hopes of uncovering information that could lead to her whereabouts.

AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF STRESS

Near the family’s home on Lufkin Road, game wardens and civilian volunteers trekked through steady rain Tuesday, fanning out in grid searches and with dogs or riding ATVs looking for any sign of Westra.

Rich Brewer, a retired Marine and friend of Kristin Westra’s family, searches Tuesday morning for the missing North Yarmouth woman near Lufkin Road.

Her brother, Eric Rohrbach, said police have theorized that Westra was not thinking clearly and for some reason felt the need to leave her home. But Westra has no history of mental health diagnoses, her brother said, and had an aversion to taking medications such as sleeping pills that may have altered her mood or ability to think rationally.

“It’s incredibly surreal. It’s something out of a nightmare,” said Rohrbach, 45, of New Gloucester. “It’s a horrible situation to think that she’s immobilized somewhere in the woods. But there’s a huge party searching for her.”

Police have not released information about why she would be missing, and it was not clear Tuesday if any specific information led them to search the wooded area near her home. Police also used search dogs to look for evidence in her house.

Westra has a 9-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old stepson. She’s known as an early riser and as someone who is active and fit, her brother said, but for her to leave the home without telling anyone or having a way to communicate is deeply out of character for her.

Rohrback said he talks with his sister regularly and was surprised when she didn’t return his phone call Sunday. Then, on Monday morning, he learned of her disappearance.

Rohrbach said his sister was under an unusual amount of stress.

The Chebeague Island School where Westra teaches is being remodeled, making it difficult for her to be as effective in her job, Rohrbach said. And she faced similar stresses at home, he said, where the Westra family home was also undergoing major renovations to the entire first floor.

“When she comes home, (the family members) don’t have a place to relax.” Rohrbach said. “They were like eating dinner in the garage. Kristin is someone who likes to come home and curl up with a book, and she couldn’t do that.”

Detective Sgt. Scott Harriman of the state police said authorities are interviewing the contractor who was working at the home. But police have said there is nothing to lead them to believe foul play is involved.

Rohrbach said there were no indications his sister intended to leave the home Monday morning. She had plans to see friends and had a doctor’s appointment on Monday.

This photo from January 2016 shows Kristin Westra teaching third-graders at Chebeague Island School. Authorities say she disappeared from her North Yarmouth home overnight Sunday without her vehicle, cellphone or keys.

But there was some indication that something was bothering her Sunday night, he said. Although Westra was usually a sound sleeper, Rohrbach said her husband told him that she was restless and had trouble sleeping. Jay Westra also told Rohrbach that he believed she got up before dawn Monday morning.

Family members and police think she may have walked out of the house, he said.

“It was raining and she left without her keys, without her car, without her phone. And we think she was wearing flip-flops,” Rohrbach said. “She does a lot of yoga and she does a lot of running, but she doesn’t do it at that time of night. And if she did, the Kristin I know would have told Jay or brought her phone.”

Rohrbach also said it was hard to imagine that Westra would have taken any sleep medications, some of which are known in some cases to cause behavior such as sleepwalking. He said he was told by Jay Westra that there is no such sleep medication in the home.

“She’s not on any medications,” he said, and resists taking them.

AN EXTENSIVE SEARCH

The large-scale search began Monday night in the Lufkin Road area, which is crossed by a power line corridor and surrounded by woodlands.

Regan Goan, a commander with the Cumberland County Emergency Management Unit of the Sheriff’s Office, said the search had covered more than 20 miles as of late Tuesday morning.

At least 50 police and civilian volunteers were involved in the search just after noon, said Cumberland County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Stewart.

Teams gathered at the North Yarmouth Fire House on Walnut Hill Road before they split up and set off on grid searches of the area. Civilians wearing hiking gear and blaze orange joined police in green military-style fatigues.

Police officers led a search dog into Westra’s home early Tuesday afternoon, and dog teams were working to help comb the area nearby.

The house sits only a short distance from the road, but the property and the surrounding area are densely wooded. Less than a quarter-mile from the home, Lufkin Road turns to dirt and the woods end, giving way to a massive open corridor with three sets of parallel high tension power lines.

Wardens and police actively focused on this open area near the power lines, where the grass and scrub are knee-high and the rolling terrain is accessible by ATV trails.

FELLOW TEACHERS FILLING IN

Westra teaches students in grades 3-5 at Chebeague Island School, according to the school’s principal, Michael Pulsifer, who also doubles as the district’s superintendent. Pulsifer noted that Chebeague Island is no longer affiliated with SAD 51, having broken away from the district 11 years ago.

Teachers and students who live on the mainland, such as Westra, have to take the ferry every day to reach the school, which serves pre-kindergarten through grade five students. Twenty-five students attend the Chebeague Island School.

Pulsifer said he is in close contact with students and parents regarding Westra’s disappearance. Other teachers have been filling in during her absence.

“We’re ever hopeful that Kristin will be found safe. We are keeping the faith,” Pulsifer said Tuesday night.

The large-scale search for Kristin Westra began Monday night in the Lufkin Road area, which is crossed by a power line corridor and surrounded by woodlands. Here, searchers continue their work on Tuesday.

A profile of Westra posted on the Chebeague Island School’s website says she grew up in Burlington, Vermont. She experienced island life at an early age, spending her summers at her family’s camp in North Hero in the Lake Champlain islands.

She attended the University of Vermont, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology, with a minor in German. Westra comes from a long line of educators, including her mother and several other family members, according to her profile.

After teaching in Vermont for two years, Westra moved to Portland. “The opening for island teacher intrigued Kristin and it continues to do so,” the profile said.

Her hobbies include: cooking, travel, running, and swimming. This school year would be her eighth year teaching on Chebeague Island.

Westra has brown hair and brown eyes, weighs around 140 pounds, and is 5 feet 10 inches tall. Police are not sure what she was wearing at the time of her disappearance.

Anyone who was driving or walking in the North Yarmouth area late Sunday or early Monday morning and saw anything that might be helpful has been asked to contact state police at 624-7076 or the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at 893-2810.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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