Search continues for NSU student Stephen Adams missing since 2004; dig begins near Fort Gibson

FORT GIBSON, Okla. -- Authorities searching for a Tahlequah man who disappeared nearly 10 years ago are digging on property near Fort Gibson.

The search for Stephen Mitchell Adams -- who was last seen Dec. 13, 2004 -- began Monday at the site of an old cistern following a recent tip to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation led them to the field. Ground-penetrating radar revealed what investigators call "anomalies" under the surface.

"This was taken probably a week after he went missing." Adams' mother Claudene Hays shows a picture of Adams' playfully holding his daughter upside down. 

Two days into a dig at the Fort Gibson Historical Site, the family says they are still waiting on answers.

"I don't really understand, why the silence," Hayes said. She sits in her living room with her son, Christopher, and his wife as they look through old family photo albums. 

Adams was last seen after taking a final exam at Northeastern State University. He called his girlfriend about 11:30 a.m. that day to say he was taking an unidentified man to the Keys area.

The man still hasn't been identified and Adams and his pickup truck have not been seen since.

An investigative team began clearing debris at the site Monday morning.

No remains were found Monday and the search resumed Tuesday.

Adams' mother said she didn't find out about the search until later that night when a friend told her it was on the evening news. 

"We didn't know this was going on at all," she said.

With an ongoing case like this one, investigators on site said there are reasons for withholding information. 

"We know this is very hard on them, and I hope for their sake this location brings them closure," Brian Kuester, District Attorney for the 27th Prosecutorial District, said.

Investigators here say this all happened very quickly. 

Still, no signs of Adams' remains after crews spent all day digging up a cistern and sifting through the dirt by hand.

"Investigators have been removing dirt, rocks, debris, one bucket at a time," Kuester said.

While there's some hope at finding closure, all involved know they've dealt with dead ends so far. However, they are still cautiously optimistic. 

"We're hopeful today that this is the place, and if it's not we'll move on and continue to do what we can to find Stephen."

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