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Missing Ore. Family Members Found Alive

March 22, 2006

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) _ Six family members who disappeared more than two weeks ago after leaving in a recreational vehicle for a trip to the Oregon coast were found alive Tuesday in a remote area of southwestern Oregon, authorities said.

The recreational vehicle apparently became stranded after the family took a dirt and gravel mountain road that is sometimes used as a shortcut for trips to the coast, especially in the summer.

``But it’s nothing to travel in the winter, especially with the snows that have been coming through,″ said Sgt. David Marshall, spokesman for the Douglas County sheriff’s department.

Peter Stivers and Marlo Hill-Stivers left Ashland on March 4. Traveling in a 35-foot recreational vehicle, they brought along their children and Stivers’ mother and stepfather.

They were reported missing on March 8 and a search was launched but suspended last week.

Stivers and his wife left the vehicle Monday morning and spent the night outside in a tent before they were able to flag down a four-wheel vehicle driven by a timber appraiser working for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said Sgt. Jim Alderman of the Ashland Police.

The Stivers were taken to City Hall at Glendale, a small community between Grants Pass and Roseburg.

A helicopter crew later reached the other four family members _ the couple’s two children and Pete Stiver’s mother and stepfather, Alderman said. Stormy weather forced the helicopter down from the mountain. He said a paramedic and a deputy were left behind with the four and snow machines and a road grader would be sent for them.

He said all six were in good condition, and ``there are no medical emergencies.″

Betty Stanfill, Glendale’s city recorder, said Stivers and his wife told authorities that while they were holed up in the recreational vehicle, they had a television and watched reports of the search for them.

Stanfill said the family had cell phones, but couldn’t get service in the remote region.

``When they saw on the news that the search had been discontinued, they decided they had no choice but to walk out,″ Stanfill said.

Stanfill said the couple had small backpacks, layered clothing and hiking boots.

In addition to 31-year-old Peter Stivers and 29-year-old Marlo, also on the trip were their two children Sabastyan, 9, and Gabrayell, 8, and Elbert and Becky Higginbotham of Arizona.

During the initial search, authorities had focused on the U.S. 199 corridor leading south from Grants Pass, a well-traveled route across the Coast Range, rather than narrow and windy back roads that are more direct routes.

Alderman said he didn’t know whether the family had gotten stranded on the way to, or coming from, the coast. He said as much as four feet of snow had been reported in the mountains recently, and it was a puzzle why the family had chosen the road.

``We don’t know why they went the way they did,″ he said. ``We don’t know why they were up there where they were.″

Friends said the family was found far from the route they’d discussed, leading some people to believe the family got lost.

The family lived in Ashland for several years but rarely traveled, said Andi Black, general manager at DJ’s Video in Ashland where Hill-Stivers worked.

``She’s just super-responsible,″ Black said. ``So we knew something was wrong ... this is totally unlike her (Marlo).″

``I knew we were going to hear something eventually,″ said Char Seward, a close friend and co-worker of Marlo Hill-Stivers. ``But after two weeks and two days of not hearing something, it was exhausting.″

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