Family still holds out hope in the search for missing family mem - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Family still holds out hope in the search for missing family member, 20 years later

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The family of Cherice Gwinn Stephens is still holding out hope for new clues about her disappearance.  Gwinn Stephens was 23-years-old, when family members say she vanished and now they believe she possibly could be dead.  They say she would never just take off.

"She's my niece and I miss her everyday and I think about her everyday," said Brenda Pyatt, Gwinn Stephens' aunt.

Cherice Gwinn Stephens was married to Norman Stephens, and they lived in the Bolt area of Raleigh County.  He says Cherice dropped him off at work in a 1993 white Dodge Daytona. Weeks after her disappearance, Norman Stephens filed for divorce.  Gwinn Stephens' loved ones say he refused to take a lie detector test and stopped talking to family members.

"It's been real hard.  It's been 20 years and I've been best friends with her since kindergarten," said Beverly Fleetwood, Gwinn Stephens' childhood best friend.

The family hung up posters, hired outside sources, and started their own investigation.  At the time of Cherice's disappearance, the Breckenridge Missionary Baptist Church in Bolt was constructing an addition.  Family members believed they could find clues there and wanted to search an old septic tank, at their expense.  But they say they have been denied that search by church leaders for years.

Gwinn Stephens' family says Norman's family has a strong connection with the church. 

The family has created a website hoping to generate new tips and leads.  State troopers say they continue to get tips and continue investigating.  Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information.  Meanwhile family members say they need to know if Gwinn Stephens' remains are at the church.  If they are not, they say they can move on and search somewhere else.

Rick Snuffer, president of the trustees for the church says he would be willing to consider some type of search, if efforts were headed up by state police troopers and if some sort of legal document were sent in by family members.

Sergeant D.W. Bennet with West Virginia State Police says troopers will do a search, if the church gives consent.
     
Gwinn Stephens' brother says he plans to submit a legal document to church leaders, saying family members will pay for the entire search, and have licensed and insured workers search and restore the property.

We will continue to follow this story on 59 News.