Activists, police hire Minnesota company to search underwater quarry for missing Barre man

Local News

After an extensive underwater search of a local quarry, Barre City police are not any closer to finding out what happened to a man whose disappearance has remained a mystery for more than a year.

Ralph Jean-Marie, 38, was last seen at the Hollow Inn Motel on April 13, 2020. The latest search was conducted last month after rumors surfaced that Jean-Marie was harmed and thrown in a quarry, said Barre City Police Chief Timothy Bombardier.

“Unfortunately, that seems to be a common rumor anytime someone is missing or believed harmed in Central Vermont and it has been that way for decades,” said Bombardier.

But for months, the department didn’t have the resources to conduct safe searches of quarries. So Barre police cooperated with activists creating a documentary about Jean-Marie, and they hired an agency from Minnesota to carry out searches in quarries in Central Vermont. 

“So I basically started searching around online for ways to get around that safety issue,” said Rebecca Ronga, who is handling communications for the documentary project. “When it comes to figuring out where Ralph is, it’s as important to figuring out where he isn’t, at this point. To start checking the boxes.”

Ronga said she contacted Bombardier in April about searching the quarries.

“It was a safety issues,” she said. “Sending people into the quarry to dive based on cables and equipment and the depth and the darkness, the quarries kept anyone local from being able to do a proper search..

Ronga was eventually referred to Crossmon Consulting, LLC, an underwater salvage group in Hermantown, Minnesota. The company had the technology and expertise to do a remotely operated, underwater search. 

“We sent a small team out to Minnesota and came back here to Vermont and presented it to Chief Bombardier and Attorney Thibault with the hopes that they would be able to use that information to help search the quarries,” said Ronga.

From June 20 to June 25, Barre City went ahead, using the police budget only to cover the experts’ travel and lodging costs. The men from Minnesota did the search pro-bono. 

“We found nothing of evidentiary value connected to Ralph’s disappearance,” said Bombardier, adding that the effort was nonetheless helpful. “It helped dispel some of the rumors, and it helped redefine where the investigation may go,” he said.

Barre City PD will continue using their Facebook page and help from the documentary team to keep the community up-to-date on the case.  Chief Bombardier says a video, filmed by Anthony Marques, will be posted to the page by the end of the week.  

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