Karla Hillen’s husband said Friday he worries an insulin imbalance caused by her diabetes may have somehow affected her judgement and led to her disappearance from Fort McAllister.
Jamie Hillen, a retired U.S. Army bandsman and former teacher at Richmond Hill High School who recently took a job at Guantanamo Bay High School in Cuba, told reporters at a press conference at the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office that “none of this makes any sense to us,” while thanking law enforcement and the community for its support and appealing to anyone with information to contact BCSO.
Meanwhile, Bryan County Sheriff Mark Crowe said there’s no evidence of foul play and no video showing 58-year-old Karla Hillen, a longtime local family counselor, left the park alone or with someone she knew.
He said it was also unlikely she left with a stranger and equally unlikely she was abducted given where her car was found and the crowds in the park over that time period, because someone would’ve heard that happen.
“From everything we’ve seen so far, she is probably still in the area,” Crowe said, noting that beginning next week specialized K9 teams from South Carolina and Florida will help join in the search.
Crowe gave media a timeline of the case, which for authorities began when she was reported missing by a friend late Nov. 23. Her car was found at Fort McAllister the next day with only the car keys inside. It has since been returned to the family.
Crowe said it appears the “last time anyone physically laid eyes on Miss Karla,” was Saturday, Nov. 20.
Her car was last seen parked in the driveway of the home she was staying at on Nov. 21, but by noon it was gone.
Since her car was found Nov. 24, repeated searches by multiple agencies have involved dogs, helicopters, boats, ATVs and more than two dozen volunteers, Crowe said. One false trail had authorities checking evidence of a police computer ‘hit’ on Hillen in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day, but it turned out to be a DNR agent checking her license -- apparently in order to get a photo of her.
Video from area residences, cameras at Fort McAllister and the Fish Tales restaurant and marina has also been poured over, Crowe said, turning up nothing.
Hillen, who was joined by his and Karla's children, asked that people continue to keep his wife and family in their thoughts.
“My family and I thank everyone in the community and our friends from all over for their help in the search effort, and for all the words of support and encouragement. We’ve been a part of this community for more than 20 years, Karla as a family counselor, myself as a teacher at Richmond Hill High School, and as evidenced by the outpouring of support Karla’s helped thousands of people in our area.”
Hillen said his wife continued to work online with clients from their new home in Cuba, but came back to Richmond Hill in late October and was visiting friends when she took her car and drove somewhere the afternoon of Nov. 21.
Hillen said she left her friend’s without any identification and credit cards, which was not in character.
“It appears the only thing she took with her was her car keys,” he said. “None of this, none of this, makes any sense to us.”
He asked that anyone with information contact BCSO, which is calling a halt to physically searching Fort McAllister until the teams from South Carolina and Florida arrive.
“We don’t want to create any circumstances that may end up hurting their chances of finding her,” Crowe said.
He said among the assets coming from Florida are dogs capable of tracking scent in water and an amphibious vehicle used in marshy areas previously used to find the remains of Brian Laundrie, the man suspected of killing his fiancee in a case that drew national media attention.
They’ll face the same challenges searchers here have dealt with.
“You’re looking at 750 acres of woods, marshlands, low places, palmetto bushes,” Crowe said.
Crowe responded to questions regarding of the department’s efforts to keep the community up to date, which has drawn criticism from social media pages on Facebook.
He said BCSO releases information when possible and has relied on Facebook in this case, but said the department is going to limit its presence on that form of social media as it begins using its own app to share information with the public.
“You get so many comments (on Facebook) that get to the heart of people,” he said. “Some get to the heart of us, some get to the heart of the family. We don’t want that to happen.”
Call 912-756-2127 if you have information on the disappearance of Karla Hillen.