Shipp vanished December 8, 2004. Her daughter, Brandy Shipp, reported her missing two days later, after her mother failed to show up for work conducting market research surveys at an Independence grocery store. A few days later, Shipp's 1986 BMW was discovered with her belongings locked inside.
The charges filed last week say Shipp was conducting a door-to-door survey the day she went missing, and Sauerbry invited Shipp into his home. Independence police have long suspected Sauerbry in Shipp's disappearance. But, as The Pitch reported in 2005, investigators had a hard time pinning anything on him.
Former Pitch writer Kendrick Blackwood wrote of Sauerbry:
"When the police came knocking at Sauerbry's door the evening Summer's car was found, Sauerbry ducked out the back and was arrested, Independence police reports show. Officially, he was taken in for unpaid tickets. But Sauerbry's initial bond was set at $70,000, indicating that police were concerned with more than his driving habits."
Sauerbry's mother, Sherry, told police at the time that her son had mental-health problems, but she didn't think that he had anything to do with Shipp's disappearance.
The 2005 piece also makes Sauerbry sound uninterested in discussing the case. The story ends with this scene:
But Jeff Sauerbry is there. He stands behind the glass of his storm door watching as a Pitch reporter approaches to ask how he's dealing with the scrutiny that he's under. He steps out onto the front porch. His brown hair is cut short. His plaid shirt is tucked in. He has only one thing to say. "Don't step on my property, guy," he says.
In 2007, fishers found human remains on the banks of the Little Blue River in Independence. Dental records were used to identify Shipp.
The murder charges allege that Sauerbry bragged to a neighbor in 2005 that he raped Shipp and that she was not coming back. The charges also say a witness came forward earlier this year and said that in 2008, Sauerbry told him that Shipp was a spy. When the witness pressed Sauerbry on whether he killed her because she was a spy, the charges say, he replied, "You can't take no chances."
An initial court appearance for Sauerbry on the charges hasn't yet been set.
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