published Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Two months since Gail Palmgren went missing and no signs of foul play

Hamilton County criminal investigators search inside of Matthew and Gail Palmgren's home in Signal Mountain, Tenn., in this file photo.  Gail has been missing since April 30.
Hamilton County criminal investigators search inside of Matthew and Gail Palmgren's home in Signal Mountain, Tenn., in this file photo. Gail has been missing since April 30.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
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    Matthew Palmgren speaks at a brief news conference concerning his missing wife, Gail, at the Signal Mountain Recreation Department in Signal Mountain.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HOW TO HELP

Gail Palmgren was last seen driving a red 2010 Rubicon Jeep with a tailgate tire cover that reads “Life is Good” and with a daisy painted on it. She also had a personalized Alabama tag — “EAZY ST.” The couple owns a home near Titus, Ala., on Lake Jordan.

She is 5 feet 8, weighs 135 pounds and has blond hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information may call Signal Mountain police at 423-886-2124.

More than two months have passed since anyone has seen Gail Palmgren.

Investigators have found no sign of the 44-year-old Signal Mountain mother of two.

There’s no crime scene showing any trauma.

Her crimson red Jeep Rubicon is still missing, and she hasn’t used her credit cards since she disappeared.

Still, authorities say there is no specific period of time that must pass before they decide that foul play is involved.

“There’s no certain time frame. There’s no certain time limit,” said Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Janice Atkinson. “Just when evidence is uncovered during the course of the investigation.”

The question, depending on how it’s answered, can make the difference in how investigators are able to proceed in the case, a legal expert said.

With the amount of time that has passed since anyone has seen or heard from Gail Palmgren, if authorities wanted to secure a warrant, they could quite easily, said Wesley Oliver, an associate law professor at Widener University who used to practice in Nashville.

Noting the amount of time since she vanished, authorities could say they need to search computer hardware or properties, citing safety concerns for Palmgren, Oliver said. Case law would support a judge signing off on the warrant, he said, citing U.S. Supreme Court case Cady v. Dombrowski in 1973.

However, Oliver pointed out that, in this case, Gail Palmgren’s husband, Matt, most likely holds the most information about his wife that could lead to authorities locating her, and a search warrant might not be the right tack to take at this point.

“Until it’s clear he’s not going to cooperate, the husband is the best ally in finding this missing woman,” Oliver said. “As long as possible, they don’t want an adversarial edge. A search warrant says, ‘We’re suspicious of you.’ They want to avoid that as long as possible.”

Matthew Palmgren has never been charged in connection with the case, and police never have officially said that he is a suspect.

“There is this cloud of accusations put over Matt’s head,” said Lee Davis, Palmgren’s attorney. “Law enforcement will tell you there is not one shred of evidence of foul play in this case.”

Five percent of search warrants are declined, Oliver said, but the vast majority of judges or magistrates sign off on them. Many community members have been critical of law enforcement efforts not to obtain warrants to search earlier in the Palmgren case.

Because investigators have no evidence showing foul play, they have entered into a consent order with Matthew Palmgren in order to search the couple’s properties, including their Signal Mountain home, lake house in Alabama and a storage unit in Red Bank.

Matt Palmgren has not given a statement to detectives, nor have his two children.

“We have provided Signal Mountain Police and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department with information, investigative leads, physical evidence, DNA samples and access to all physical property owned by the Palmgrens,” said Davis. “We will continue to assist law enforcement throughout this investigation.”

Soon after his wife disappeared, Matt Palmgren hired a private investigator, Mike Mathis, a retired Chattanooga police investigator, to help locate his wife, Davis noted.

Throughout the search for Gail Palmgren, Davis has accused the public of being critical of Matthew Palmgren. Davis said that, in court papers filed by Gail Palmgren’s siblings, his client is accused of “not doing what he can for the children.” As an example, he noted that there were accusations that Matt Palmgren did not have his two children in counseling, but they have been in counseling since Gail Palmgren disappeared.

“Mr. Palmgren has been accused of being insensitive. ... So, now what’s happening, we are having to put into the public what is really, in many respects for the family and the children, best to keep private,” Davis said.

The public also has been critical of Matthew Palmgren, blaming him for Gail Palmgren’s disappearance, Davis said.

The couple was on the verge of divorce, friends said. And police responded to a couple of arguments in Signal Mountain in the days leading up to Gail Palmgren’s disappearance.

Davis said private information about the Palmgrens continues to be leaked to the media.

“If Gail is in hiding and watching what’s happening, all this is going to do is drive her further into hiding,” Davis said, noting that she suffered from mental illness.

Even though his client is not charged with anything, Davis said Matt Palmgren still needs an attorney.

“This has got to be one of the most stressful situations somebody can be in. When you haven’t done anything wrong and you’re under some cloud of suspicion, that’s when you most need a lawyer,” Davis said.

While it remains unclear what happened to Gail Palmgren, her close friend, Arlene Durham, said as time continues to go by she fears Gail is dead.

“I know in my heart she’s not here anymore,” said Durham, who lives in Titus, Ala., where the Palmgrens have a lake home. “Until I find a body, I have to look. It’s hard.”

Durham said she has traveled as far as Florida, checking places Gail Palmgren might have gone.

Authorities have had to string together pieces of evidence after Gail Palmgren gave numerous documents and personal belongings to friends before she disappeared. With the exception of Durham, they all have handed over everything.

Durham is in possession of a hard drive that came from a four-camera surveillance system at the Palmgrens’ Alabama lake house. Gail Palmgren hoped the hard drive had footage of an argument between her and her husband, which she planned to use during divorce proceedings, Durham said.

“I don’t have to give [the hard drive] to anyone. Gail made me promise not to give it to anyone,” Durham said.

As of Friday, Durham said she had made arrangements with the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama to create a duplicate of the hard drive and send it to Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office detectives.

Contact Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.

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MarshaA said...

“We have provided Signal Mountain Police and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department with information, investigative leads, physical evidence, DNA samples and access to all physical property owned by the Palmgrens,”

This from the guy who took the Palmgren computers and sent them off to an undisclosed location without telling the police about it. Matt hasn't even made a statement to the police, so how much "information" can he have given?

I said it a few days ago and I will say it again: Even if the cops think she just strolled off on her own, this needs to be investigated properly. A proper investigation means talking to the spouse and checking the missing person's computer activity. And if they think she committed suicide, that's a crime and needs to be investigated as well. These are things that need to be done even if they don't think Matt Palmgren is responsible for anything.

July 10, 2011 at 4:57 a.m.
thinkaboutitt said...

Let the facts speak for themselves: 1. Mr. Palmgren hired a criminal attorney instead of a family attorney, to file for custody of his and Gail's children, legal separation from Gail, and exclusive use of the primary marital residence. 2. Mr. Palmgren is an adulterer and used marital assets to support his affair. 3. Mr. Palmgren is the only person who has depicted Gail as mentally ill. 4. Mr. Palmgren abuses alcohol. 5. Mr. Palmgren has been involved in numerous domestic disturbances with his wife. 6. Mr. Palmgren essentially stole from his employer, BCBS, by not attending the conference at which they sponsored his attendance. 7. Mr. Palmgren's mistress hired a criminal attorney. 8. Mr. Palmgren's mother hired a criminal attorney. 9. Mr. Palmgren has not been open with law enforcement, i.e., has not volunteered to take a polygraph test; has not made his and Gail's children available to speak with LE; and allowed a search of his and Gail's properties only after his attorneys drafted documents to his liking. 10. Mr. Palmgren and his family have not offered a reward for information leading to Gail. 11. Mr. Palmgren and his family have not participated in any searches for Gail. 12. Mr. Palmgren was forced out of his previous job as well as his most recent job. 13. Mr. Palmgren asked Gail to "show herself" instead of pleading for the return of the mother of their children, who love and miss her.

July 10, 2011 at 8:39 a.m.
thinkaboutitt said...

Mr. Palmgren, his mistress, and his family will answer to a higher power, the one who judges each and every one of us.

July 10, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.

Thinkaboutit.... you have a lot of accusations against Mr. Palmgren. Are these thoughts yours or were they just cut and pasted off the FB BGHN? There are alot of claims but nothing but opinions backing them up. #12 is an interesting point did you find info as to him leaving his last job that he was forced out. You must be very close to him to know all this.

July 10, 2011 at 11:12 a.m.
NoMyth said...

"Matt Palmgren has not given a statement to detectives, nor have his two children." This is highly disturbing. Fortunately, he hired his own P.I. That worked out well when O.J. did the same thing.

July 10, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.

nomyth... does that mean no statement or no interviews... when did this turn in to a murder case like OJ?

July 10, 2011 at 11:34 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Dear Ms(?) thinkaboutit,

Polygraphs are notoriously unreliable. Any attorney worth his/her salt will say, "if you are are innocent, decline to take the polygraph test, if you are guilty take it, it might turn the police elsewhere."

Don't you think in this country we ought to let courts of law determine guilt, not lynch mobs?

July 10, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.
hambone said...

If this woman is alive she has had contact with some of her family and phone records will show it.

July 10, 2011 at 7:10 p.m.
ENGLISHMAN said...

thinkaboutitt - Had it right. Most of the statements are correct and verified, like the affair and being fired from BVCBS. Not sure about #12 but there is enough with the others. Huge red flags. You would have to be blind and stupid not to even be considering the husband as a suspect. Sure he may be innocent and let's hope for his sake she turns up real soon, but after 10 weeks I somehow doubt it. Looks more and more like the GA Parker case. Poor Gail and the children.

July 10, 2011 at 11:33 p.m.
jjameslmcl said...

Has A description of the truck which was seen with the jeep on Signal Mountain been made public yet?

July 11, 2011 at 1:10 a.m.
sleuth said...

If he is tired of "the cloud hanging over his head", why doesn't he take a polygraph and why did his investigator remove items from the home and not notify the police they were in their possession? Oh, and why schedule an appointment with a criminal defense attorney BEFORE his wife was even "missing"? Sounds alot like Drew Peterson.

July 12, 2011 at 1:31 a.m.

Sleuth.... this is a missing person investigation.... PI's have a lot more ley way in the way the act. They can go any where with out answering to anyone. IF you are looking for someone I want a PI looking for her not just depending on the police. When is it illegal to give a PI and your attorney your computers to be looked at. Its a missing person . If I am correct that Davis and Hoss are officers of the court. For them to remove so called evidence would possible get them disbarred.... is that the reputation that they have ? I am not thinking so.

July 21, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
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