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Friends mobilize as Annapolis police search for 'critically missing' man

Law EnforcementThor (movie)

Friends and co-workers are struggling to understand the disappearance of Robert Allan Stewart, an Annapolis liquor store manager who has been missing since Dec. 6.

"It doesn't make any sense. It's just totally strange," said Ben Wiser, who worked with Stewart at Mills Fine Wine & Spirits on Main Street in 2009 and 2010.

Stewart was last seen in downtown Annapolis early Friday morning. He was scheduled to work at Mills and 9 a.m. and to move into a new apartment Monday.

But no one has seen or heard from Stewart, leading to a police investigation, a sonar search of the waters at City Dock, two Facebook page appeals and a volunteer search on Wednesday night.

"I think everyone's scared a little bit, but we're in command and control mode," said Elizabeth Burlington, who was set to be one of Stewart's new roommates and who planned to take part in the search. "We feel like we're doing something."

Stewart worked last Thursday night at Mills Fine Wine & Spirits on Main Street, where he is the spirits manager, but never showed up for work Friday. His boss, Mills co-owner Jerry Donahoe, said he dispatched employees to Stewart's apartment, where roommates said he never came home the night before.

That's when Donahoe called police.

"We just want to help him get found," said Donahoe, who sent an e-mail to customers to alert them to Wednesday night's search. The search was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at Mills, 87 Main St.

Police consider Stewart to be a "critically missing adult." Annapolis Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Amy Miguez said police don't believe Stewart is the victim of a crime, but his disappearance is unusual.

"We're just concerned for his welfare," she said.

Early Wednesday, the state's Natural Resources Police were brought in to assist in searching the waters around City Dock with side-scan sonar. Miguez said there was no indication Stewart had gone into the water, but detectives wanted to exhaust all options in the search.

"That's the last place he was seen," she said. "That's the only thing we have to go on right now."

There are no video cameras that would have captured Stewart in the area where he went missing, Miguez said.

It's been difficult for Stewart's friends since they learned of his disappearance on Friday.

Wiser said he has kept in touch with Stewart even after leaving Mills for a job at Frederick's Flying Dog Brewery. Wiser made sure to catch up with his old friend whenever his work took him to Annapolis. He described his friend as an intelligent, thoughtful man with a great sense of humor. The two would pass the time at work inventing ideas for TV shows or movies.

"He seems so serious and quiet, but beneath he's hilarious," Wiser said.

Burlington recalled recently seeing the movie "Thor" with Stewart and irritating their other friends because they talked nonstop, ridiculing the movie. Stewart isn't just funny, Burlington said. He's also caring and sympathetic.

"He has a lot of empathy … It's very easy to talk to him about very important stuff," she said.

Burlington praised the Annapolis Police Department for keeping Stewart's close friends updated on the investigation. As young adults, "we're all each other's family," which the police respect, Burlington said.

Stewart is 6 feet tall, weighs 200 pounds and has brown hair and green eyes. He was last seen wearing a gray fleece coat, police said. He is originally from North Carolina and graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Tom Pyles at 410-268-9000 or tnpyles@annapolis.gov.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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