ROYAL LAKES, Ill. - Officials are searching for a downstate mother of four who has been missing since late January.
Denita Hedden, of Royal Lakes, was last seen leaving her residence in Royal Lakes around 2 p.m. on her birthday, January 25, 2018. Lt. Kristopher Tharp told ABC News that Hedden was reported missing by her roommate on January 28 after she failed to return home. Tharp said her disappearance is being considered suspicious due to the duration. Her children do not live with her, however she is very present in their life and she is not a person with a history of absences.
Her family is desperately looking for any sign of where she could be or have gone to. As of right now, the family and the town of less than 500 are living their worst nightmare.
"Everybody's looking for you. Everybody's, it's chaotic, everybody's trying their hardest to find you," Hedden's older brother Raymond Dyer told WICS.
Officials conducted a large-scale search and rescue operation on both land and air in Royal Lakes on Tuesday with ATVs, first responders as well as volunteers.
"This is a person search for Denita, a search for articles, for a clue," said Lt. Kristopher Tharp, Major Case Squad of the Greater St. Louis Area.
As of now, residents, officials, and family members are left wondering where the mother of four could be.
"I'm trying to hold everybody together in this situation. She texted me two days prior to going missing," Dyer said.
As all the stops are being pulled to bring her home safely, some are just hoping to hear positive news about her and her current condition.
"To search to find her alive, I'm hoping and praying. Went to church in Warden, Sunday, and I prayed that they would find her, you know, you know a lot," volunteer Donna Randle said.
As the ongoing investigation continues, officials have reason to believe the disappearance is suspicious, they vow to continue searching for Hedden until she is ultimately found.
"The search will continue. We're going to have to re-evaluate as to the scale as to which it will continue," Tharp said.
As of now, there is no known public threat or cause for alarm, according to the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis.
Tharp said the search and rescue will continue depending on the weather as well as the conditions surrounding the investigation.
While the large-scale search and rescue operation is ongoing, there will be a large presence of first responders, including both law enforcement and fire department members.