On the morning of February 1, 2009, 58-year-old Katherine (or Kat as she was called) Heck presumably walked away from her home and vanished. According to statements by her family, she had gotten up that morning with a horrible headache and a red eye, in the days prior to her disappearance her husband noticed that she had been acting confused and disoriented at times he expressed his concern, since she did have a heart problem and high blood pressure, but she assured him that she was okay. She told him that she was going to go sweep off the back porch, in hopes that the cold morning air may help ease the pain.
I’m not exactly sure the amount of time that passed before Kat’s husband, David, went out on the back porch to check on her. Nevertheless, whenever he opened the back door he was immediately struck by the way the dust was haphazardly swept around the porch and the fact that the broom was laying as if it had been dropped.
Kat was gone.
David immediately looked around the outside of the house, and then went back inside to check if maybe she had come in through the front door and he had somehow missed her. She was nowhere to be found. He called his daughter who lived a few houses down from them to see if her mother had perhaps walked down the street to visit. She hadn’t seen her.
According to David, within 30 minutes of Kat walking off the family was out looking for her, and within an hour, word had circulated and everyone in the community was searching as well.One of the most troubling things about this is that Kat was an introvert and didn’t like to leave the house alone. It was very out of character for her to just take off for a walk.
There had been several sightings of Katherine walking up the street by her neighbors. Someone saw her on 43rd Street (Middlesboro, Ky), another person saw her on 46th Street. According to the archived news articles I found on porchlight, the sighting on 46th Street was the last, however, NamUs lists the last possible sighting of her was on Upper Gibson Lane. I found an email address that belongs to Kat’s sister and reached out to see if I could get some clarification, but haven’t heard back. So, at this point, I’m going to have to assume that the sighting on 46th Street was the last CONFIRMED sighting of her.
As community members were searching, they located one of her shoes directly south of where she was last confirmed to be seen on 46th Street. Just one. As far as I could find, her other shoe has never been located.
Law Enforcement was soon out in full force. The Bell County Rescue Squad searched the ground while helicopters searched by air. Police brought scent-tracking dogs to assist, and they picked up on her trail but suddenly lost her scent along the street. This had led many people to believe that perhaps someone had picked Katherine up on the morning of her disappearance. Law Enforcement even went as far as to check with all the local bus lines to see if maybe she had gotten a ride from someone and then taken a bus, but there was no evidence to suggest that she had purchased a ticket.
Is it possible that maybe Katherine had experienced a stroke? Afterall, she did have high blood pressure, but even if that were the case, where is she? It’s possible that she could have wandered off into the woods and eventually succumbed to the weather or to an injury, or perhaps to whatever was causing her disorientation and confusion. The size of the forests in most of these rural locations in Kentucky could definitely cause problems with locating a person.
Why was only one of her shoes located? It sounds like it’s highly possible that someone saw an older lady in distress and took advantage of the situation. That is the only way I can think to explain her abrupt disappearance from the street, (given the scent dogs lost her trail), a struggle could also explain how she may have lost one shoe.
In 2013, human remains were found at Cumberland Gap National Park, some people thought perhaps Kat had finally been located…but DNA tests proved otherwise.
Her family is still searching for her, and I truly hope that they find the closure that they seek. If you know anything please contact the Middlesboro PD at 606-248-3636.