Security footage discovery leads to wider search area

Ronald Lee Johnson's two daughters spent Thursday scouring their father's preferred driving route from Riverdale, N.D., to Jamestown without finding any trace of the missing man.

John M. Steiner / The Sun Laura Wetsch, left and Susan Trautman, daughters of Ronald Johnson, who went missing earlier this month, were in Jamestown Thursday after they retraced their father's preferred route from Riverdale, N.D., to Jamestown.

Ronald Lee Johnson's two daughters spent Thursday scouring their father's preferred driving route from Riverdale, N.D., to Jamestown without finding any trace of the missing man.

Johnson, 74, Riverdale, has been missing for more than a week and was expected in Jamestown on Oct. 15.

"We were really hopeful we'd see something on this route," said Susan Trautman, Johnson's daughter from Riverdale.

Trautman's sister Laura Wetsch flew in from Raleigh, N.C., and accompanied her on the drive.

"He's real independent," Wetsch said. "He doesn't tell people where he's going necessarily."


Johnson told no one when he went to 4 Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town early in the morning on Oct. 16.

McLean County Sheriff Don Charging viewed security camera footage from that night and confirmed Johnson was indeed there. The tip that he was there came from a bank statement that showed a withdrawal from an ATM at the casino.

"We'll continue our efforts to search," Charging said. "We'll be continually exploring the roads."

With Johnson's confirmed location on Oct. 16, the sheriff said the search will now encompass everything from N.D. Highway 23 to N.D. Highway 83 south to Interstate 94.

"That puts a whole different perspective on our search pattern," he said. "It's a completely different area."

The North Dakota Civil Air Patrol has been assisting in the search. It will have two planes in the air again on Friday flying over the expanded area, Charging said.

Johnson, an avid poker player, routinely visited casinos. However both sisters said it's unlike him not to call when he'll be late if people are expecting him.

He was originally planned to visit his son in Jamestown on Oct. 15 and his sister in Valley City on Oct. 16 and go to a medical appointment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Fargo on Oct. 17.


Not making a scheduled appointment for a stress test at the VA Hospital is also unlike him.

Johnson is a snow bird and planned to head south to avoid the winter weather after his appointment.

"He stayed so long in North Dakota because of that VA appointment," Trautman said.

He had his cellphone on him, but the battery went dead a few days after he was missing.

"We think he had a health issue or he was avoiding a deer," Trautman said.

Wetsch will depart for North Carolina on Saturday. With her departure the sister are running out of options.

"We've driven the route," Trautman said. "There's nothing else we really can do except wait."

"And pray," Wetsch added.


The sisters as well as Charging are optimistic that with deer gun season opening that hunters will see some signs of Johnson.

Johnson drives a gold 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood four-door passenger car. The North Dakota license plate number is HZZ466.

He is a diabetic and has undergone double bypass surgery in the past. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 220 pounds, has gray hair, a beard and a mustache and wears glasses. He has no memory issues.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact local law enforcement.

"The only way we are coping is to stay as busy as we can possibly stay because if you sit down, you just fall apart," Trautman said.

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at

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