Posted on Sat, Jan. 08, 2005

Sister of jailed man seeks answers


Lori Matthes isn't sure what to think.

Her brother has been sitting in a jail cell nearly a month. Summer Shipp, a Kansas City woman, has been missing for the same amount of time. And Independence police have combed through her mother's home, looking for clues to Shipp's disappearance.

“I'm very upset,” Matthes said. “I'm very confused. My heart goes out to that poor family. How can it not?”

Matthes' brother has not been charged with Shipp's disappearance, but he is being held on a $70,000 cash bond for seven traffic warrants.

Shipp was last seen a month ago today, Dec. 8, conducting door-to-door market research in the 1500 block of West College Terrace in Independence. A neighbor told police that he had seen Shipp walking toward the home of Matthes' mother and brother.

Police said Matthes' brother was a “person of interest” because he has a fairly extensive criminal record and because Shipp's abandoned car was found near his residence.

However, the 32-year-old man isn't the only person of interest. Police said other persons of interest include relatives and friends. Police would not elaborate.

In investigating the disappearance, Sgt. Dennis Green said, police considered three major groups: family and friends, felons and sex offenders who lived nearby, and strangers.

Green said detectives have interviewed the felons and sex offenders and ruled them out. Tracking down strangers who might be involved with Shipp's disappearance will be harder.

“There's not a lot we can do about that,” Green said.

Otherwise, the case is wide open, he said.

“We're still shotgunning right now, getting information on different avenues and possibilities,” Green said. “We're trying to rule him (Matthes' brother) out,”

Matthes' brother would not comment from his jail cell.

Matthes said in a telephone interview from her home in Camden County, Mo., that she understands that investigating a disappearance takes time. But, Matthes said, her brother hasn't been charged with any crime related to Shipp's disappearance.

“Maybe that's just a downside of the judicial system,” Matthes said. “But charge him or let him go.

“My brother doesn't have the cleanest past, so he's an obvious suspect.”

His criminal record covers several convictions, stretching back to 1992. Most recently he was released from federal prison in June. The convictions covered charges involving drugs and firearms.

Matthes said her brother had just gotten a job as a salesman when Shipp disappeared. He was trying to put his life back together, she said. Matthes is married and uses a surname different from her brother's.

“You just hope and pray that someone you know wouldn't be involved with this,” Matthes said. “I don't think he did it.”

Meanwhile, Shipp's family has hired private investigator John Underhill. He said he has helped create a Web page regarding Shipp, mapped out areas for future searches and handled calls from psychics.

Shipp's former husband, John Shipp, said the family has put 30 posters on cabs and five posters on buses, and is working to erect a billboard in Westport.

“We are still convinced that someone is out there who saw something, who heard something or who knows something,” John Shipp said.

He said the family scarcely noticed the holidays.

“What holidays?” he asked rhetorically. “Friends came by with decorations. The holidays were just another day.”

To reach Linda Man,

police and courts reporter, call (816) 234-7809 or send e-mail to

First glance

• Police say family and friends are among the “persons of interest” in the search for missing Kansas City woman Summer Shipp.

Benefit screening

• The Screenland movie theater is showing ”The Triplets of Belleville” to benefit the Friends of Summer. The movie is free, but a $10 donation per person is requested. The screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at 1656 Washington St.

© 2005 Kansas City Star and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.