Desperate searches for two missing women who vanished days apart in Colorado resort town

Melissa Whitsitt was reported missing days after Winter Park authorities began searching for Svetlana Ustimenko

Andrea Cavallier
Thursday 24 August 2023 17:33 BST
Mother travels cross country to search for missing daughter in Colorado

Separate searches are underway for two missing women who vanished from a popular Colorado resort town within days of each other.

Melissa Whitsitt, 34, was reported missing on 13 August after she failed to show up to her job at the Winter Park resort, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Ms Whitsitt had moved from Tennessee to Colorado in May for the job and was extremely excited to start her new life in Winter Park, her family said.

The missing woman was last seen on Woodspur Lane. Her phone was used by an “unknown male” to make several calls from the Denver area but it has since been turned off, the Denver Gazette reported.

Just days earlier, on 11 August, authorities had started a search to find another missing woman, 55-year-old Svetlana Ustimenko after her rental car was found parked at the Deadhorse Trailhead area in the Arapaho National Forest in late July.

Melissa Whitsitt (left), 34, went missing on 13 August just days after police began searching for Svetlana Ustimenko (right), 55. They both vanished from a Colorado resort town
Melissa Whitsitt (left), 34, went missing on 13 August just days after police began searching for Svetlana Ustimenko (right), 55. They both vanished from a Colorado resort town (Grand County Sheriff’s Office )

The vehicle was supposed to be returned on August 10 but it was left parked “for an extended period of time” with no sign of her, authorities said.

Multiple searches took place on August 12-13 and again on 18 August and 20 August, but there was no sign of Ms Ustimenko, who is from Florida.

Melissa Whitsitt, 34, was reported missing on 13 August after she failed to show up to her job at the Winter Park resort
Melissa Whitsitt, 34, was reported missing on 13 August after she failed to show up to her job at the Winter Park resort (Grand County Sheriff’s Office )
A photo of Ms Whitsitt with brown hair has been released by the sheriff’s office, but her mother recently shared two old photos of her daughter with blonde hair on Facebook and said ‘there are reasons for the three different pics’'
A photo of Ms Whitsitt with brown hair has been released by the sheriff’s office, but her mother recently shared two old photos of her daughter with blonde hair on Facebook and said ‘there are reasons for the three different pics’' (Cindy Whitsitt/Facebook)

An investigation found Ustimenko was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and she was “struggling as she tried to cope and was attracted to the Colorado mountains”.

On 22 August, the search was suspended pending new information.

The sheriff’s office says the two cases are not related and reassured local residents that there is no threat to the community.

Ms Whitsitt’s parents Cindy and Jerry Whitsitt, have since travelled to Winter Park from their home in Tennessee to search for their daughter.

“Like a needle in a haystack,” Cindy Whitsitt told CBS News. “Some of the law enforcement have been very eager to help us but they are understandably outnumbered, there are literally two detectives in the department here in Denver and we found that unacceptable.”

On 11 August, authorities had started a search to find another missing woman, 55-year-old Svetlana Ustimenko after her rental car was found parked at the Deadhorse Trailhead area in the Arapaho National Forest in late July
On 11 August, authorities had started a search to find another missing woman, 55-year-old Svetlana Ustimenko after her rental car was found parked at the Deadhorse Trailhead area in the Arapaho National Forest in late July (Grand County Sheriff’s Office)

The missing woman had not been in contact with her friends or family since she was last seen and has not used her debit card.

A photo of Ms Whitsitt with brown hair has been released by the sheriff’s office, but her mother recently shared two old photos of her daughter with blonde hair on Facebook and said “there are reasons for the three different pics”.

She added that her daughter may have changed her hair colour but would be easy to spot in public.

Search teams are scouring the vast wilderness in Colorado for two missing women
Search teams are scouring the vast wilderness in Colorado for two missing women (Grand County Sheriff’s Office )

“She is a livewire,” her heartbroken mother said, teary eyed.

“Always has been, she is very loud; you would see her or hear her if she is anywhere out there.”

“Melissa,if you see us, just call us,” she pleaded.

Anyone with information about Ms Whitsitt is asked to contact the Winter Park Police Department at 970-722-7779. Anyone who believes they may have seen or talked to Ustimenko is asked to contact the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 970-725-3311.

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