The search for a retired Yakima physician missing for almost two weeks in the Ukraine has now been classified as a criminal case, according to family and church officials.
Dr. Jay Sloop, 77, was last seen the morning of May 14 after he left a church compound in Kiev for a morning walk. The retired obstetrician had been in the Ukrainian capital for three weeks, working with a team of other health professionals to set up a lifestyle center for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Initial search efforts had focused on Zamkova Gora, a large, heavily wooded park in the city center, after video surveillance showed him entering the park. It now appears the park is no longer the focus of authorities.
Police have changed the classification the investigation to that of a criminal case, said Jay Wintermeyer, a Seventh-day Adventist spokesman in Spokane.
A variety of resources have been assigned to the investigation, according to family members.
“So far there are really no leads that we have from our investigators (and) people that we’ve been working with. The police may have some leads we don’t know about. But at this point, the park idea has been excluded. (It’s been) searched with dogs twice – repeated searches from top to bottom. He really cannot be in the park,” said Dr. Richard Sloop, a Yakima neurologist and one of the missing man’s three sons.
Richard Sloop said it’s unlikely his father had experienced a medical problem.
“The U.S. Embassy has said (this disappearance) is extremely rare. It seems very difficult to imagine that he could just get lost, slip and fall, those kinds of things. I think it’s likely there’s some kind of criminal element here. What the motivation would be would just be wild speculation,” he said.
Citing privacy rules, the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., earlier said it had no comment other than to say it was aware of the case and that its embassy in Kiev was in contact with local authorities and Sloop’s family.
Previously, a spokesman for the Seventh-day Adventist church said Sloop regularly went for morning walks with other members of the team, but left alone this time after one of his roommates backed out at the last second. Sloop had been in Kiev for about three weeks and was scheduled to return to the United States at the end of the week when he was reported missing.
Sloop is a retired OB/GYN who had a private practice in Yakima from 1969 to 2005, when he was named health director for the Seventh-day Adventist Upper Columbia Conference in Spokane.
Sloop lived in Yakima, commuting to Spokane as necessary.
Another of the missing doctor’s sons, Greg Sloop of Portland, Ore., has regularly posted blog updates on the search for his father. On Saturday evening he posted the following:
“No great news – we still have not found Dad.
“We followed up some reported sightings and spent some time walking areas around the place we know where Dad last was. There were some other things done – but that’s the general feel of it. ... This is really, totally and completely in God’s hands. Realizing we are powerless and that God is the one in control is hard – but it’s clear we’re not going to solve this ourselves. So, we keep asking for his intervention, and to help us realize his direction and the will to follow where he leads.”