OTTUMWA — Mark Milligan has to find out what happened to his brother.
"July 1st, 1984, my brother, Harry Milligan, disappeared," wrote Mark on his Facebook page.
It is the first part of a long plea for facts, for clues in a disappearance that has haunted Milligan and his family for 30 years.
"In Albia, Iowa ... 3,000 people, and it seems that no one knows what happened," Milligan writes in a public post.
Facebook is not the first tool typically used in a serious investigation. Milligan knows that: He is now an experienced police sergeant in Ottumwa. He's been around enough to know this is probably a homicide investigation. But he's run out of clues — and he won't use his position to dig for more.
"I've been officer nearly 20 years," he told the Courier. "I've never used any resources of my jobs to look into this."
But he's looked on his own. He's talked to state investigators. He's spoken to people who were around town that night in Albia.
"I think something bad happened to him," Milligan acknowledged. "If it was just him, that would be one thing, but his car's never been found, either."
Many times, talk about Harry goes quiet. Then, a rumor will rise to the top, restart the conversation —and fade.
"It gets legs and then just dies away," Milligan said.
That's not what he wants.
"This ... has completely torn me up for over 30 years. I just cannot believe that someone doesn't know what happened to my brother. All I ask is if you know or think you know something, please contact me or the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office with the information that you have. You never know how it could help."
So when rumors about his missing brother recently surfaced again (via a possible "involved party's" ex-wife), they did so at a time when social media was everywhere. Now, Milligan's Facebook post has been shared more than 1,400 times.
"This is probably the first time in 30 years it's been so easy to reach people so fast," Milligan said. "Since the rumors did pop up again, I hoped maybe we can keep interest alive."
In his message, he warns readers that he's "not pulling any punches;" it names people who have cooperated and publicly points out, again by name, those who have refused to help yet are possibly aware of what happened to Harry Milligan.
"Since [the Facebook announcement], I've been receiving a lot of information," Mark said. "I think it's opened a lot of doors. There seem to be certain names that keep coming up. I think for DCI, they would want to ask some [additional] questions."
But when interacting with state police, he said, he's keeping his role limited to that of concerned, active family member.
"All I know," said Milligan, "is that I will never quit looking, never quit asking. I'm not looking for accountability as much as closure, finding an answer. What happened — and where's my brother?"
Ottumwa Courier reporter Mark Newman can be reached through email@example.com or followed on Twitter @couriermark