Police are still searching for missing American woman nearly 3 weeks after she vanished from yoga retreat in the Bahamas - East Idaho News

Police are still searching for missing American woman nearly 3 weeks after she vanished from yoga retreat in the Bahamas

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(CNN) — Investigators looking for missing American Taylor Casey in the Bahamas have enlisted the help of search dogs, marine teams and flight crews, officials said, as the search for the Chicago woman nears the three-week mark.

Casey, 41, was last seen June 19 on Paradise Island, a small resort enclave just off the coast of the island of New Providence, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said. She was there to attend a yoga retreat.

A missing person flyer released by police did not provide details of the circumstances of her disappearance or say whether foul play is suspected.

During a June 22 search, a dog picked up a scent from a tent and tracked it to the water, but the scent ended there, Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander said at a news conference Monday.

Two days later, search crews found Casey’s cell phone in the water, but they have been unable to access its contents, officials said.

Investigators in the Bahamas asked American authorities for help unlocking the phone, but they also had no luck, Fernander said Monday.

Authorities also reviewed surveillance footage from around the island, but there is “no information to connect at this time,” the police commissioner added.

Casey’s mother, Colette Seymore, traveled to the Bahamas to meet with police, US Embassy leadership and organizers of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat where Casey was reported missing.

“I had to return home without her. This is every mother’s worst nightmare,” Seymore said in a news release last week after returning to the US. “I felt an urgent need to return because without (US) government support, we may never find out what happened to my Taylor.”

Casey’s family asked the FBI to take over the search, saying they “are not satisfied with how this investigation has been handled thus far.”

“What we learned and observed during our time meeting with the authorities and Ashram leaders is disturbing and infuriating,” Emily Williams, a friend of Casey who accompanied Seymore on the trip, said in the release.

The US State Department is aware of reports of a missing US citizen in the Bahamas, a spokesperson told CNN last week, declining to comment on Casey’s case specifically.

When a US citizen is missing, the department works with local authorities and communicates with families openly, the spokesperson said.

When asked for comment, the FBI referred CNN to the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

Yoga retreat asked police to investigate

Police in the Bahamas were alerted to Casey’s disappearance by the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, which asked them to investigate after Casey failed to attend morning classes, the retreat said in a statement to CNN.

Taylor, who has been practicing yoga for 15 years, went to the yoga retreat “to fulfill a long-term goal of deepening her practice,” the family said.

Seymore visited the retreat on June 27 – a trip the family’s statement called “deeply unsettling.”

When Seymore arrived at the retreat with her team, the scene appeared largely unprocessed by authorities, the release stated. Among Casey’s belongings were a Bible and other books, a sketchpad with paintings, affirmation cards, clothes and toiletries.

“It became apparent to us when we met with the Sivananda Ashram leaders that they were struggling to keep a linear and cohesive narrative regarding Taylor’s disappearance,” Williams said.

Ram Soskin, the lead manager of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, told Casey’s family that on the Monday before her disappearance, an unidentified man with a walkie-talkie was seen walking the same platform where Casey’s tent was, the release states.

On the day Casey was last seen, one of the retreat participants was approached by a stranger while sitting alone at the beach, the participant told Seymore’s team, according to the release.

“The unidentified man was wearing a Celtics baseball cap and dressed in all black. He claimed he was from Chicago and was interested in taking a yoga class. He proceeded to follow her onto the property,” the release states.

Seymore said police advised her not to speak to guests at the retreat and authorities noted not all of them were aware of Casey’s disappearance. Seymore described the retreat as “cultish,” and claimed students were being “coerced to obey” retreat leaders, “even if that meant holding back information about my child,” according to the release.

Staff met with Taylor’s mother and friends once at police headquarters and once at the retreat, Jonathan Goldbloom, a representative for the ashram, told CNN in a statement.

“To be clear, the police advised us that while we can encourage community members to speak with them, it must be their choice. So, we announced their presence to Taylor’s classmates and teachers and invited anyone wanting to meet with them to come forward,” Goldbloom said. “Many of our community members chose to speak with them and the ashram did not intervene in terms of what individuals said. They were encouraged to speak freely. Any perceived hesitancy could have been due to their own grieving processes.”

The retreat has been asking across channels for people to come forward with information and providing guests with regular updates, Goldbloom said.

“All of us are distraught over Taylor’s disappearance, and our hearts go out to her family and friends,” Goldbloom said.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Amanda Musa, Kylie Atwood, Jamiel Lynch, Amanda Jackson, Lucy Kafanov and Holmes Lybrand contributed to this report.