New Castle News

October 6, 2006

Sister questions police progress in search for her missing brother

By Debbie Wachter Morris

Mark Murincsak went missing four days ago, and his sister wonders why the search has stopped.

A team of state troopers and firefighters assembled Sunday morning and looked for the 44-year-old Slippery Rock Township man until around 5:30 p.m.

Valeria Ann Sacoulas wondered yesterday why no one has returned to Taylor Township to keep looking.

Police found his abandoned truck parked on the Shenango River Bridge on the Route 422 Bypass early Sunday with the keys on the seat.

Sacoulas wants to know why search dogs were not sent to sniff for him, and why she cannot get answers from police about why the search has stopped, she said.

Murincsak has worked at Wal-Mart two years and lives with his sister on Shaffer Road in Princeton. Sacoulas said he takes medication for bipolar disorder.

Sacoulas worries he suffered from depression after their father’s death in March.

He told her Saturday, “You’re all I have left,” she remembered.

Murincsak worked Saturday and went home around 11:15 p.m. He changed his clothes, had his usual glass of milk and cookies, and said he was going to bed. He asked Sacoulas to wake him at 8 a.m.

However, she awoke to a call at 6 a.m. from the state police, saying his truck was parked on the bridge.

She checked his room, found he was gone and drove to the area. She said police called her on her cell phone, and told her she would have to move the truck because it was a safety hazard.

Although police have not continued their search since Sunday, Sacoulas said she learned from a trooper yesterday that a helicopter had flown over the area again Monday.

The police are asking that anyone who sees Murincsak contact them at (724) 598-2211.

Station commander Lt. Thomas Hill could not be reached for comment before deadline this morning.

Sgt. Gary Schuler, who accepted a second call from The News today, said he feels the state police are being “harassed” because a reporter and Sacoulas had called the station this morning about the case.

He said he was not involved in the case, and when told of Sacoulas’ concern about the search, he responded, “and of course you believed her, hook, line and sinker.”

He hung up the phone before offering further comment.

Sacoulas described her brother as a creature of habit. She said he wore jeans, a gray T-shirt and a navy sweatshirt to bed as he does every night, and she believes that is how he left the house. He wore black Nike tennis shoes, because they were gone from his room, she said.

The siblings have lived together five months in their late father’s house, she said, adding they grew close while caring for him during his illness. Her mother and husband also died recently.

“It’s been four days and nobody cares,” said Pam Hallas, Sacoulas’ friend of 20 years. “His whole life was his home and his job.

“She needs to know if he’s still alive or if he jumped into that water,” Hallas continued. “She can’t handle not knowing.”

Sacoulas has been in constant contact with Wal-Mart’s managers, who also are anxious for any news of him.

Bob Ridley, a Wal-Mart manager, said yesterday he has been talking to Sacoulas every two hours, and if need be, store employees will join a search to help find Murincsak.

“We all miss him and we all love him,” Ridley said, adding, “He’s a hard worker, and a friend to employees, associates and customers. “We’re waiting around here with heavy hearts. We’re all just waiting for answers.”