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Police Not Hopeful in Search for Missing W.Va. Bank President

May 16, 1991

WESTOVER, W.Va. (AP) _ Police on Thursday searched woods where a missing banker used to go bird- watching, but said they weren’t hopeful he was in the area.

William E. Coleman, president and chief executive officer of Westover Bank, was last seen driving away from the bank during his lunchbreak Monday and hadn’t been in contact with his wife or staff since, state Trooper B.M. Henry said.

Officers searched airports, motels, parking garages, shopping malls and rural roads within 100 miles in an effort given special urgency because of Coleman’s position handling large sums of money, Henry said.

″What’s the chance of an average guy being kidnapped?″ he asked.

Police were treating the disappearance as a missing-person case, and foul play had not been ruled out. An audit showed nothing amiss at the bank, leaving investigators few clues, Henry said.

″Because of his position and responsibility and past history, this is really just bizarre,″ Henry said.

″This guy has never ever been late for an appointment or returning from lunch. He’s a steady family man,″ he said. ″He comes home every night at the same time. If he goes out, he always takes his wife.″

Family and co-workers said all seemed normal with the banker. Coleman typically went to Morgantown, across the Monongahela River, for lunch.

″We can’t find any evidence of family or work-related problems, or medical problems,″ Henry said. ″If he was distraught, he didn’t show it.″

Coleman, 51, is an avid bird watcher, so police searched woods near Westover, which is about 75 miles south of Pittsburgh.

″We theorize he could have went in the woods to watch birds and had medical problems, had a heart attack or stroke,″ Henry said.

Coleman and his wife, Susan, had just returned from a vacation that featured bird watching on the East Coast, Henry said.

State police began alerting authorities around the country to be on the lookout, he said.

″We just feel he’s not in the area or else he or the car would have turned up by now. Either he’s left the area or he was taken not by his own free will.″

A check of bank records after Coleman’s disappearance found no apparent discrepancies, said Asel Kennedy, Westover Bank board chairman. The state banking commissioner oversaw the check, Kennedy said.

Coleman was hired by the bank in 1975 as its executive vice president and chief executive officer. He was promoted to president in 1980.

He is a board member of the Westover Merchants’ Association and a board member and treasurer of the Northern West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

″He’s a definite asset to everything he’s involved in,″ said Mayor Don Roderick.

″He’s a kind, gentle, stable guy who runs a good bank,″ said Edward Skriner, president and chief executive officer of First National Bank of Morgantown.

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