SHADY COVE — Investigators are still searching for an unidentified potential witness who could hold the key to solving the disappearance and feared death of a Shady Cove woman who was last seen on Thanksgiving eve one year ago.
Sheriff's investigators are looking for fresh leads to locate Malina Nickel, a 30-year-old single mother of two who left behind all her personal belongings in her home when she disappeared, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
Of particular interest is the identity of a man who was seen near Nickel's white 2002 Ford Escape the day she disappeared outside the Trail post office, detectives said.
Four people were in a vehicle that gave that man a ride to the Chevron gas station in Shady Cove, said Detective Sgt. Scott Waldon, the lead investigator in the case.
"Nobody knew who he was, and no one's been able to identify him," Waldon said. "It's like he disappeared."
Waldon said that person was not seen getting out of the vehicle and could have been there by circumstance.
"If we can find out who that guy was, maybe he can explain some stuff or disprove some stuff," Waldon said.
Family members discovered Nickel's car two days later and she was reported missing Nov. 28 by her mother after she failed to report to work at a Subway sandwich shop.
Waldon said Nickel is feared dead because she has not used credit cards or her phone and has not contacted friends and family in the past year.
"She obviously loved her kids, and (no contact) isn't like her," Waldon said. "By all accounts, she was a good mother."
Investigators get a tip in the case almost weekly, but the vast majority have been rumors, Waldon said.
As part of the investigation, detectives have conducted at least five polygraphs and have used cadaver-searching dogs in a half-dozen property searches in the Prospect, Butte Falls and Shady Cove areas, Waldon said.
Detectives say Nickel was known to be a drug-user and an active warrant was out for her arrest at the time of her disappearance to revoke her conditional discharge on a drug-possession charge, records show.
But Waldon said that was no reason for her to go into hiding.
Waldon believes "one or two" people know what happened in Nickel's disappearance, and they need to come forward, he said.
"With this case, we don't have anything," Waldon said.