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Joan Wallace's vehicle, body found in woods

| May 31, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Libby woman missing since May 9 was found dead on Memorial Day in her crashed pickup.

The cause of Joan Wallace's death Tuesday morning remained under investigation, said Flathead County Undersheriff Mike Meehan. The 74-year-old's death appears accidental.

A property owner 15.5 miles west of Kalispell at 6:45 p.m. Monday found Wallace's beige 1986 Nissan about 150 feet off U.S. Highway 2, Meehan said. It's believed to have been there since the day Wallace disappeared.

"It was down an embankment in some trees," Meehan said. "At this point, it's still under investigation by the highway patrol and coroner's office. All indications make it appear accidental from a traffic accident."

A former animal control officer for Lincoln County, Wallace was discovered by a landowner who was walking the outer border of his property.

"It's very, very dense with trees, forest and bushes," Meehan said. "They saw the truck laying on its side."

A dead dog also was found inside the truck, which was extensively damaged. Wallace was last seen with a dog belonging to friends; she was caring for the animal while they were out of the area.

A resident of the McGinnis Meadows area, Wallace was reported missing after failing to return home from a trip to Kalispell. She was last seen at a doctor's appointment. Family members said Wallace also stopped at the Kalispell Albertsons grocery store where her

daughter-in-law, Debbie Wallace, works.

Family members reported her missing on May 10.

Searchers, who included family, volunteers from David Thompson Search and Rescue, Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies, U.S. Forest Service employees and owners of private aircraft, combed the area between McGinnis Meadows and Kalispell.

"We had 30 to 40 (involved in the search) throughout the 19 days," said Lt. Roby Bowe with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. "The search was done on a daily basis for the first few days. We put airplanes up in the air and people did it on their own time.

Wallace's family considered establishing a fund for either information leading to her recovery or a donation to the search and rescue personnel. She is survived by five sons, Don Wallace and his wife, Dana, of Troy; Duane Wallace of Bigfork; Steve Peterson of Littleton, Colo.; Scott and his wife, Georgia, of Kalispell; and Vaughn and his wife, Deborah, of Kila.