PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Almost two years have passed since a woman went missing while vacationing in Panama City Beach and her family is still searching for answers.
“I went to Florida to go get her and I couldn’t bring her back,” Angie Meither, Nancy’s daughter-in-law said.
On the evening of September 28, 2018, Nancy Meither and her husband, Jerel Meither, enjoyed their final night of a four-week stay in Florida with plans to return home the following day — on September 29, Nancy was reported missing.
Angie said that afternoon, she expected to see her in-laws pop in the door at any moment.
“They were going to be coming home from Florida and they were going to take the grandchildren to Tennessee for Fall Break,” Angie said.
Assuming they were already on the way, Angie called them to confirm an eta. When Jerel answered the phone, she could tell something was off — that’s when he told her Nancy was missing.
According to police, the last time Jerel saw his wife was around 10:00 p.m. on Friday.
It was the following morning at 5:00 a.m. when he noticed Nancy had not returned to the room, he immediately headed down to look for her. The only thing Jerel spotted was her beach chair which had been flipped over.
According to police, Jerel didn’t report Nancy missing until 2:00 p.m that afternoon. Jerel told Angie the reason he waited so long to call was because he kept thinking his wife would return by lunchtime, when she didn’t, he made the call.
“It wouldn’t have been uncommon for her to go for a walk,” Angie said.
There are some important details concerning what happened to Nancy Meither — two stand out the most.
The first one was from a Panama City Beach Police incident report from the evening of Nancy’s disappearance. The incident report stated the following:
A call was made to officers at 7:15 p.m reporting a water distress.
Multiple people saw an unknown man enter the water from a nearby chair on the beach. Soon after, they heard him screaming.
Officers arrived on the scene 10 minutes after the call was made, but the sun had already set. Due to poor lighting, they were unable to locate anyone in the water that night.
Officers took photos of the area where witnesses suspected the man was sitting. At the scene was a blue folding chair, with a University of Kentucky logo, a brown bag with a Sierra Club logo, and a pair of black women’s sandals. Without being able to confirm who the items belonged to, they left them on the beach.
Angie Meither said all three of the items belonged to Nancy. She said by the time Jerel went back out, the chair was all that was left.
The second detail first appeared to police on the night of Nancy’s disappearance.
According to the Case Activity Report, two women were taking sunset photos on the beach when they spotted a woman 100 yards out in the gulf. The witnesses told police they never saw the woman come back to the shore.
They also told officers that they spoke to two others who were residents at Sunbird Condominiums who also said they saw a woman out in the gulf and said they earlier saw her with a man and that she left a blue chair on the beach.
A few days after Nancy disappeared, the witness who’d called officers about the woman in the gulf, saw Nancy’s story on Facebook. She contacted Angie about what she’d seen and suspected Nancy was the sunset swimmer.
“This lady particular said, I want you to look at this, I took some pictures and I think she is in my sunset pictures,” Angie said. “And then sure enough, there she was.”
Angie said she and her family don’t believe Nancy is still alive. It was the sunset pictures that gave them the only sense of closure they believe they will ever have.
But one question remains — what happened?
“Maybe there was a big shark, or maybe there was something by her,” Angie said. “Maybe she got stung, maybe she couldn’t move. I’ve only had a billion things go through my head that could have happened to her.”
Angie said she will have to live with these questions for the rest of her life, and she will have to wait another three years to get a death certificate.
Angie said Jerel and Nancy were together for 43 years and loved going on trips together. She said that Nancy had a love for grandchildren that was unique.
“She was the best granny in the entire world and the best mother-in-law that I could ever have dreamed of,” Angie said.
Loosing the love of his life has been hard on Jerel. Angie said Jerel’s choice to head back to the room that night wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“Her and I always sat and watched sunset for many many years,” Angie said. “It’s not an uncommon thing for us to tell the men, go all go back up to the room, we are going to watch the sunset.”
Besides being a loving grandma, mom, and wife, Angie said Nancy was also a very capable person.
“She was remarkable, she knew how to do anything and everything,” Angie said. “She could go from here to anywhere in the United States, all back roads and she was just the best cook ever.”
Angie said Nancy is their guardian angel.
“I know she’s watching over us every single day and it’s hard,” Angie said.
If you have any information regarding this case, please contact the Panama City Beach Police Department.