RICHMOND — As the search for Anneliese Heinig enters its second week in Falmouth, her family no longer believes she will be found alive.

“We’ve come to terms with the fact that we have to face the reality that Anneliese is gone,” her father, Christopher Heinig, said in an interview.

Police in Sagadahoc County were already familiar with the 37-year-old mother of two when her teenage daughter reported her missing Nov. 28.

A review of public documents shows Heinig has had suicidal thoughts and has undergone court-ordered counseling for post traumatic stress and substance abuse treatment following protection from abuse order requested by the father of her younger child. That came six months after Heinig was taken by Richmond police to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick in December 2017 for evaluation after she threatened to throw herself off a bridge.

In an interview Sunday, Christopher Heinig acknowledged his daughter’s past problems, and said she had not only completed counseling but remained active with one of her therapy groups.

But there is no obvious explanation for why she posted two cryptic messages on Facebook in the days before she disappeared.

On Nov. 22, she posted: “I just want peace. I pray for Peace and my family. I love my children and I want the world to know.”

And hours before she was last seen Nov. 26, she updated her profile photo with a photo of her two children that was several years old.

Despite missing person flyers posted from Richmond to Portland and shared widely online, few tips have been called into Richmond police and none has provided new information.

The multiagency search launched a week ago where Heinig was last seen has also turned up no new information.

Over the weekend, a statement from Falmouth police said the search would continue for the foreseeable future, but would be scaled back absent new information.

“We’ve been going through pictures of Anneliese,” Christopher Heinig said. “Not that I’ve been trying to be a tough guy, the unemotional kind of practical guy, but I’ve tried to be strong and keep my wife supported and my daughter, Grace. But every once in a while, I’ll see a picture of her and break down and cry.”

Heinig’s 16-year-old daughter contacted the Richmond Police Department on Thanksgiving Day to report her mother had failed to show up at a family dinner.

That was two days after a Maine state trooper had the vehicle Heinig had been driving towed from the shoulder of Interstate 295 in Falmouth — nearly 40 miles from her home in Richmond — where it had sat for about seven hours.

Sgt. James Donnell, who was working that day, pinged Heinig’s cellphone and tracked its location to a tow yard in South Portland.

Inside the black Mercury Mariner SUV, registered to her parents, were Heinig’s cellphone, wallet and keys. In the back were birthday items for her daughter, whose birthday had just passed.

Following that came the tip about the last probable sighting of Heinig, walking south along the side of I-295 away from her vehicle at a time of day when traffic on that stretch of highway starts to pick up for the day.

At 6 a.m., the equivalent of 929 vehicles per hour passed that spot, as measured by the Maine Department of Transportation. By 7 a.m., the volume of traffic had increased to 1,637 automobiles per hour — just shy of the peak morning traffic at 11 a.m. that day.

Despite the number of vehicles passing that spot, no one else has offered any information about seeing Anneliese Heinig that morning.

The Heinigs retrieved the vehicle from South Portland, and have said the low gas indicator was on. Anneliese Heinig did not call AAA or her sister, Grace, for help.

If she left any kind of note, that has not been disclosed.

 

LIFE STRUGGLES

Responses from lifelong friends and others posted in the days after news spread of Heinig’s disappearance included messages of love and offers of prayers for her safety. They beg her to return to the people who love her or to reach out and let someone know she is safe. They urge her to let family and friends help her.

A number of Heinig’s friends shared stories about her during a candlelight vigil organized to offer support for the Heinigs at the end of the first week of searching.

A public records request by the Kennebec Journal confirmed Anneliese Heinig’s life has been turbulent at times. The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office and the Richmond Police Department have been called repeatedly to her home on Main Street to intervene in family conflicts or to help find her daughter when she would not come home.

In 2019 alone, Richmond police officers have been to the home 23 times, most recently on Oct. 26.

Police have also been called to a home on Alexander Reed Road when she had lived there with Ryan Theriault, the father of her 5-year-old son.

Theriault, like many of Heinig’s friends, has not responded to a message seeking comment.

Falmouth police Lt. Frank Soule talks with Anneliese Heinig’s family on the bridge on Route 9 over the Presumpscot River in Falmouth, in the area being searched Wednesday. Anneliese’s sister, Grace, is at left, and her father, Chris, is at center. Portland Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Two years ago this month, Richmond police Officer Chris Giles responded to Alexander Reed Road for a reported family fight and possible assault. While no charges were brought, Giles brought Heinig to Mid Coast Hospital for evaluation after she said she was ready to do herself in and threatened to throw herself off a bridge.

“On the way to the hospital, Annalese (sic) again made reference to jumping off a bridge,” the officer wrote in a report. “I asked her which bridge and she said it didn’t matter, any bridge. She also said, ‘When I leave the hospital I will be much closer to jumping.'”

In the middle of 2018, Theriault sought and received a protection from abuse order against Heinig after a violent outburst.

As part of that process, she was ordered to complete a psychiatric program at Mid Coast Hospital and seek counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. The court also discussed the conditions under which Heinig, accompanied by the children’s grandparents, could see her children.

Eventually, the order was dismissed.

On Sunday, Christopher Heinig said his daughter and Theriault realized they loved each other but could not live together.

“She just recently started working for SaviLinx at Brunswick Landing,” Christopher Heinig said. “That’s the first really good job that she’s had in a number of years. She enjoyed the work. She enjoyed the people she was working with, and they enjoyed her.”

Having that job, one that would make her financially secure, was a wonderful feeling, he said.

 

PRAYING FOR ANNELIESE

On Friday, 10 days after she was last seen, family and friends numbering about 200, gathered around the gazebo of the Brunswick Mall to offer support to her family and pray for Anneliese Heinig’s return.

Friends, family and community members gather at a candlelight vigil Friday evening at the Brunswick mall for Anneliese Heinig, a 37-year-old mother of two who has not been seen since Nov. 26. Portland Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

For nearly an hour, under gently falling snow, stories from Heinig’s lifelong friends drew laughter and tears. Holding onto candles as a sign of hope, friends conjured a picture of Heinig as a bright and friendly child, an athlete, a dancer and a fierce and loyal friend.

Heinig’s family was there, too, holding candles and hope.

Her mother, Anne, drew a picture of an athletically talented girl — interested in indoor and outdoor track, dance and figure skating — who was a softball star.

When Anneliese was in sixth grade, Anne Heinig said speaking into a microphone to the crowd, her softball team played a game in Bowdoinham. At her first at-bat, a mother of a player on the opposing team said to another mother in Anne Heinig’s hearing that Anneliese was too pretty to hit anything.

“Anneliese turned her head and looked at me, and (I gave her) a thumbs up. And she whacked that ball so hard, she scored a home run,” Anne Heinig said, pride still evident 25 years later. “And every time she got up to bat, she would score a home run. So by the time she got up there for the sixth time, those moms in front of me were saying: ‘Get back! Go farther back! You’re not back far enough!’ (to their daughters.) She whacked that one, too. Six home runs. I tapped those ladies on the shoulder, and I said, ‘That’s my baby!'”

Christopher Heinig described a favorite photo of the two of them, taken when Anneliese was still a toddler: Christopher was waxing the roof of a Land Rover the family had at the time, and his small daughter was on the ground, diligently trying to wax the bottom part of the truck.

“That’s kind of the picture I carry of Anneliese with me all the time,” he said. “A little girl who just would work her heart out. She was such a beautiful, beautiful girl and such a wonderful person, too. Despite all the possibilities, we’re still remaining as optimistic as possible, hoping that circumstances are such that eventually I’ll get a chance to to hug her and get a hug back.”

The Heinigs said at the vigil that they have learned nothing new about why their daughter was in the Portland area in the early hours of Nov. 26 or whether someone might have picked her up.

“We have no information as of this evening, nothing new,”Anne Heinig said Friday. “I think I don’t want to think about that right now. I’d rather think about what she was like and how she touched so many people. Because I think if she knew how many really loved her, she wouldn’t be lost.”

 

AROUND RICHMOND

Heinig grew up in Harpswell and graduated from Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. She attended the University of New Hampshire.

At 21, she gave birth to her daughter, now 16. For about 15 years, Heinig has lived in Richmond, a town at the north end of Sagadahoc County.

Snow from a late autumn storm has blanketed yards and fields across Richmond, bolstering the holiday displays that started appearing in the days after Thanksgiving.

The Main Street apartment where Heinig has lived for the past couple of years sits in the village, where historic-styled light poles are wrapped in greens and white lights for the holidays.

While Heinig has been missing for almost two weeks, she is still very much a part of Richmond’s fabric.

With its population of about 3,400, Richmond is big for a small town in Maine. But not so big that people do not recognize their neighbors. They would see Heinig with her son at school, at the laundromat on Main Street or at the library, just a short walk from her apartment.

In the evenings, if Heinig saw a light on at the Richmond police station, she would stop in to talk, often to Donnell, who said he considers her a nice person who has had some difficulties in life.

People would also see Heinig working the drive-thru window at Dunkin’, just off the interstate. She would take customers’ payments and hand them coffee and food through the sliding window.

While she left that job about three months ago, anyone using the drive-thru window these days will see Heinig’s “Missing” poster taped to the window. That poster, like scores of others posted in Portland and elsewhere, asks anyone who has seen Heinig or who has information about her to call the Richmond police.

The poster bears a compelling photo of Heinig. In it, she is looking down into a camera, her blond hair mostly covered by a dark knit hat. She is wearing a dark shirt and a dark coat or vest.

When Heinig lived with Ryan Theriault, her daughter and their son in the white, two-story, clapboard house with teal shutters on Alexander Reed Road, her next-door neighbor was O’Neill LaPlante, chairman of the Richmond Board of Selectmen.

Heinig is not an in-your-face, excitable type of person, LaPlante said last week. Instead, Heinig is more laid back.

“She likes to read and liked to come outside at night sometimes and look at the stars and the moon,” LaPlante said.

She is a good gardener, he said, planting and caring for perennials in the yard.

Many people know of Heinig because they often saw her with her son.

Nearly two weeks after Heinig was apparently last seen, many people in town are aware of the multiagency search taking place in Falmouth around the Presumpscot River and wondering, as one woman at the Richmond laundromat said Friday, whether anything has been found.

The woman, who did not give her name, said she often saw Heinig at the Dunkin’ drive-thru.

“She was always nice,” she said, but quiet.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

On Sunday, Christopher Heinig said he and his family are coming to terms with the idea that the search for his daughter is now probably a recovery mission.

They have been at the site of the search in Falmouth every day, except for last Tuesday, when a snowstorm suspended the search, he said.

The weather forecast for this week predicts rain and snow will move through the region early in the week.

“This is something that no parent should have to go through,” Christopher Heinig said. “It’s excruciatingly painful and very tough to keep a positive outlook.

“We keep trying to maintain a positive outlook, but with every day that goes by, it makes the possibility of her simply returning and saying, ‘Gee, guys, I just wanted some time off and decided to just go away for a while,’ becomes more and more remote.”

A diver on a Maine Marine Patrol boat goes into the Presumpscot River in Falmouth on Wednesday as the search continues for Anneliese Heinig, 37, who was last seen Nov. 26. Portland Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Now, it is a matter of focusing on a recovery more than a rescue.

“We would much prefer to find her than have her carried out by the tide and, as so many people experienced, never really knowing and never having had closure because a body is never been found,” Christopher Heinig said. “That has got to be the most difficult thing because you continue day by day by day, wondering.”

In the search launched nearly two weeks ago in Falmouth for any sign of Heinig, the Falmouth and Portland Police departments, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol and Falmouth Fire Department have scoured the area around the Presumpscot River.

Maine State Police divers and game wardens have used boats equipped with sonar to search the river. Aircraft and a drone have been deployed to search at low tide, and the U.S. Coast Guard has searched the bays.

On Sunday, Falmouth Police Lt. Frank Soule III said nothing new had been discovered.

“Boats and aircraft will be checking the immediate area for the foreseeable future,” Soule wrote in an email Sunday. “Any possible leads will be looked into immediately. The investigation will continue to be ongoing.”

Even as police agencies continue looking for Heinig, family members have shared pleas for information on Facebook. Meanwhile, Anneliese Heinig’s friends from high school and from her time in Harpswell and Richmond continue to post messages praying and hope she will find her way home.

“We have to wait,” Christopher Heinig said, “to see what’s dealt next.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.