The FBI announced Wednesday that the agency is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the disappearance of Sarah Burton, of Joplin.
The FBI has been assisting Joplin police in the investigation of the 29-year-old woman's disappearance more than 10 months ago. Darrin Jones, FBI special agent in charge, announced the offering of a reward of up to $5,000 in a news release.
Bridget Patton, public affairs officer for the FBI office in Kansas City, told the Globe that the federal agency has been assisting Joplin police in the missing person case for some time now.
"One of the ways we are providing assistance is in offering this reward," Patton said.
The last confirmed sighting of the mother of two young children was on July 16, 2018, near 10th Street and Rex Avenue in Joplin. Police received information that Burton may have been seen after that on the west side of Joplin and in the Pittsburg, Kansas, area, but those are unconfirmed sightings, according to Capt. Larry Swinehart, head of the criminal investigations division of the Joplin Police Department.
"We're hoping (the reward) will turn up some leads as to where she's at," Swinehart said Wednesday. "We haven't had any major leads of late, and we're hoping this will turn something up."
Swinehart said police do not have any clear evidence that there are people — other than those responsible for her disappearance — who may know something about what happened to Burton, people who may have been reluctant to come forward for one reason or another but might be enticed by the reward offer.
"I don't have any hard evidence, but I think there are people who know," he said.
Joplin police have been putting out word on the street of their willingness to pay for good information in the case. But the FBI reward offer represents a significant boost to what police have been able to offer up until now.
Local law enforcement's serving of a narcotics search warrant April 2 at 1174 Crane Drive unexpectedly turned up something "that matched up with information Joplin (police detectives) had received" in their investigation of the Burton case. Additional search warrants were obtained on the property, where a residence, outbuildings, vehicles and a pond were searched over a three-day period.
Investigators have declined to reveal exactly what "matched up" with information in the Burton case. But Swinehart said it is still too soon to say that the Crane Drive searches were a dead end. Potential evidence collected there was sent to an FBI lab for analysis and the results are not yet known, he said.
Joplin police Chief Matt Stewart said city detectives have worked the Burton case diligently from the start and the FBI reward reflects law enforcement's determination to keep the investigation open and active.