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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Community mourns Rebecca Ball, missing Middlebury teen found dead Tuesday

After days of searching, a canine team found missing Middlebury teen Rebecca Ball dead on Tuesday afternoon, Seven Days reported Tuesday night.

Ball’s body was discovered in Weybridge on the west side of Otter Creek and north of Belden Falls. Ball, a seventeen-year-old senior at Middlebury Union High School, was last seen at about 3:45 p.m. last Wednesday near the southern end of Wright Park. 

In a press release issued at 9:16 p.m. on Tuesday, state police confirmed the recovery of Ball’s body at 4:26 p.m. about a mile off of the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) path through Belden Falls, according to reporting from The Addison Independent. Police said her death is not considered suspicious, according to Seven Days’ reporting, but a medical examiner will conduct an autopsy.

Organizers of a Facebook page dedicated to the search for Ball held a gathering at the Middlebury Recreation Center on Wednesday morning to remember Ball’s life. 

Ball’s mother, Jeanne Fair, wrote on the Facebook page Tuesday evening, “Thank you all for looking for my baby girl.”

In addition to there being no signs of foul play, Hanley told The Addison Independent that there is no evidence to suggest Ball committed an act of self-harm. Hanley added that Ball had shown a history of “walking off,” and in these instances the police department would find her and bring her home.

While Hanley said that Ball had maintained a respectful relationship with the police department, showing willingness to go with officers when they approached her, she often did not respond well to hailing efforts such as shouting her name in the wilderness. He added that Ball’s lack of winter clothing, phone, water and her medication when she wandered off this time likely resulted in her death. 

“We won’t know definitively until we get the medical examiner’s report, but this appears to be just an issue of exposure to the elements and hypothermia,” Hanley told The Addison Independent. “There’s no indication there were any injuries.”

Middlebury Police Department officers began searching for Ball on March 29 in Wright Park, where Ball was last seen. According to reporting from The Addison Independent, Ball left an appointment at Counseling Services of Addison County (CSAC) in the afternoon, leaving her jacket, cell phone and water bottle behind at the office –– she was reported missing about an hour and a half later. 

The Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team joined the search efforts on Thursday morning, along with officials from the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, New England K-9 Search and Rescue, and Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team. 

Officials continued searching through Saturday, April 1, making sweeps along the Wright Park area, into Weybridge, Morgan Horse Farm Road, the Otter Creek Gorge preserve and Huntington Falls. The team covered about 900 acres, or three miles of territory, over the three days, Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said in a phone interview on Monday with The Campus. Efforts included both ground-based searches and the use of drones to scope out areas from the air. 

As of Monday, the team had switched from broad sweep searches to searches of specific points based on any additional evidence and/or tips they receive. The police department continued to go out and search at night and early in the morning to detect any changes or anything else that might be going on, Hanley said. 

“We had a large crowd here for three days and pretty much leaving no stone unturned for a large area and she was not recovered,” he added. 

Teams of volunteers were also searching for Ball daily from about 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from the Middlebury Area Land Trust’s (MALT) Belden Falls hiking trail entrance in New Haven. 

Members of the Middlebury Union High School community and town residents held a vigil for Ball Sunday evening in Triangle Park in downtown Middlebury. Over 200 people showed up to show their concern and support, The Addison Independent reported

Members of the Facebook page in memory of Ball’s life created a GoFundMe page for her funeral and the service costs associated with it.

“In her short time with us on earth, Rebecca had such a profound impact on those around her, something those who were fortunate enough to bond with her will be forever grateful for. It is our job to return the gesture, in her honor,” the page reads.

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Maggie Reynolds

Maggie Reynolds '24 (she/her) is the Editor in Chief.  

Maggie previously served as the Senior Local Editor, a Local Section Editor, and a Staff Writer. She spent this past J-term interning for VTDigger, covering topics from affordable housing in Addison County to town government scandals. She also interned for Seven Days VT as an arts & culture reporter summer 2022 and as a news reporter for the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY summer 2021.   

Maggie is majoring in History and minoring in Political Science and Spanish. She was a three-year member of the Women's Swimming and Diving team. Maggie enjoys running, hiking, and iced maple lattes.