Sarah Burton 090618

Sarah Burton

Sarah Burton's 31st birthday passed Monday with police apparently no closer to learning what happened to the Joplin woman who vanished almost three years ago, and her family's frustration is boiling over at the lack of progress in the case.

"How is anything supposed to get done when they keep changing the person who is working on the case?" Sarah Burton's mother, Stephanie Burton, vented in a recent email sent to the Globe.

Stephanie Burton said she's been through several detectives, three captains and two chiefs since Sarah Burton disappeared.

"And when I tried to go to the City Council about it, they told me I couldn't because they didn't want it running on the TV stations," she said Monday in a brief telephone interview.

Sarah Burton was 28 years old when a friend dropped her off early on July 16, 2018, at 10th Street and Rex Avenue in Joplin. That was initially believed to have been the last sighting of her. A couple of months later, police announced that they had learned she actually was seen later the same morning at a residence on the northwest side of Joplin. But they declined to be more specific than that, citing a concern with jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation.

Police said Monday that numerous interviews were conducted and leads followed early in the investigation and that some searches of properties and other lines of inquiry have been pursued in the ensuing years. The leads came from Joplin, Jasper County, Newton County, Oklahoma and Kansas. But they all came up empty, and the mother of two young boys remains missing.

Capt. Nick Jimenez, head of the criminal investigations division of the Joplin Police Department, said Monday that the case needs new leads. The department issued a news release Monday on Sarah Burton's birthday, hoping to generate fresh information.  

"No new leads have come in," Jimenez said of recent months. "We've exhausted the ones we had."

He said he sympathizes with the frustration Burton's family must feel with the lack of results in the missing person case. But he said he also has "the utmost confidence" in the current investigator assigned to the case, Sgt. Luke Stahl.

"He's a great investigator," Jimenez said. "I believe he will work this case to the end."

The FBI offered a $5,000 reward in 2019 for anyone offering information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the disappearance of Sarah Burton. Anyone with information on the case can reach Stahl at 417-623-3131, extension 885, or Jimenez at 417-623-3131, extension 676.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe. 

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