Family holds candlelight vigil, benefit
Roughly 50 individuals spent time in fellowship at the Hannibal Locks and Dam in New Martinsville on Saturday evening to show their support to the family of Earnest Francis, age 32, of McKinley Street, Sistersville, who was last seen at the dam on May 4. The family held a benefit and candlelight vigil from 5-10 p.m. in hopes to raise enough money to provide a substantial reward to be used in exchange for information regarding Francis’ whereabouts.
Despite warm weather and a sudden thunderstorm, everyone huddled together to see that the vigil come to full fruition. Francis’ mother, Louise, was touched with the large turnout, comprised of family, friends, and supportive strangers. To help boost the family’s spirits, the evening began with live music provided by Parkersburg area rock band, Poobah, who donated their time and talent to the event. Fittingly, Louise noted rock music is her son’s favorite genre of music. The evening concluded with a reverent candlelit vigil along the riverside where prayers for Francis’ safe return were said.
In addition to donations, the family organized activities to help raise money for the cause. Businesses and individuals from New Martinsville all the way down to St. Marys generously donated gift baskets and other prizes as part of the auction that was set up at the shelter. There was also face-painting and a variety of food and beverages available for sale.
Since he has been gone, Francis’ family has been doing their own investigation with the hope that someone, somewhere has information that may lead to a break in the case. “Every day that goes by, it gets harder and harder,” Louise said. She noted that Francis’ father searches the area around the dam daily.
This was her first time back on Hydro Drive since her son was reported missing. “It’s killing me,” she said.
Louise and other family members have been utilizing Facebook to get the word out about their missing family member. She welcomes anyone to send a friend request to Earnest Francis’ Facebook page, where she keeps others up to date on the case. Donations will continue to be collected and the family will release reward information at a later date. To make a donation, contact Louise at 304-517-4447 (cell) or 304-277-7795 (home).
Francis was last seen at 9 p.m. on May 4 at New Martinsville’s Howard Jeffers (Hydro) Drive. Searches conducted by law enforcement in that area, however, have turned up no evidence of foul play and no traces of Francis.
Francis was reportedly wearing a black top, green flannel shirt, black jeans, sandals and glasses at the time of his disappearance. He is 5 foot, 10 inches tall, with blue eyes, sandy/red hair and glasses. He has three piercings in his left ear and multiple tattoos.
Anyone having any information regarding the whereabouts of Earnest Francis is asked to call the New Martinsville Police Department at 304-455-9100.