PEORIA — Debora Smith doesn't have much hope that she'll find her estranged husband when a search party convenes this weekend in an area of Peoria he once frequented, but the chance for any real clue of his whereabouts stifles the doubt.
Richard J. Smith, 58, disappeared almost a year ago, the final act in a tragically familiar confluence of mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness. Debora Smith suspects foul play, but there's not yet evidence of such an end.
"We're really not expecting him to be alive, because he's been missing for quite some time — he just vanished," Debora Smith said. "But we need to know what happened, and I want anyone who took him away to be held accountable."
The couple lived in Bloomington, where Debora Smith still works and resides, but separated years ago. Richard Smith's last known whereabouts were all over central Illinois, including Springfield and Peoria.
"We had some issues because I was trying to get him cleaned up," Debora Smith said. "We had to part ways, because I couldn't see him suffer like that."
The final confirmed sighting of her husband was in Springfield in September, but he had been living for months in Peoria, up until April 2017. Debora Smith said her husband may have been with a couple of people who took him around central Illinois to buy pseudoephedrine, the loosely controlled over-the-counter ingredient in many cold and allergy medications, and the primary ingredient in most recipes for methamphetamine.
Springfield police have confirmed that Richard Smith is listed as a missing person, but Peoria police did not have him identified under that status Tuesday afternoon.
Debora Smith plans to begin her search at one shelter where he was recognized during his time in Peoria — the Salvation Army center on Northeast Jefferson Avenue in the North Valley. She will be there at 8 a.m. Saturday with fliers seeking information and is asking for the public's help to distribute the informational pamphlets.
Friends and family have raised a $5,000 reward for any tip that leads to Richard Smith's location. Anyone with information can call Debora Smith at (309) 310-7936.
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.