Williamsburg couple disappears on cross-country trip; car parked in California desert

Posted at 8:40 AM, Jun 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-26 08:46:38-04

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- William and Susan Schmeirer left Williamsburg on May 27 to embark on a cross-country trip. They were supposed to meet family around June 2 in Palm Springs, California. They never made it.

The couple's car was found June 13, parked at the Amboy Crater Trailhead parking lot in California, about 100 miles from Palm Springs.

It had been parked there -- abandoned -- for about 10 days, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office said.

When the sheriff's office launched a search of the area, they found human remains.

"Search personnel located human remains of a deceased male matching the description of William Schmeirer," a sheriff's office spokesperson said. "Positive identification of the body is pending from the Coroner’s Division. The cause of death of the unidentified male is unknown and is pending autopsy. The whereabouts of Susan Schmeirer is currently unknown."

The sheriff's office search for Susan was suspended over the weekend due to extreme heat.

"By 10:30 a.m. ground temperatures hit 130 degrees and by 2 p.m. the ground temperatures reached 165 degrees with an air temperature of 117 degrees," the sheriff's office said. "Due to the hot temperatures by 10:30 a.m., the use of search dogs was terminated. The rough terrain and weather conditions disabled two sheriff's department off-highway search and rescue vehicles. "

Schmierer's family hired a drone service to fly over the desert and continue the search.

Areas of interest, identified by the drone company, have not yet been searched.

Friend Bob Hershberger said the Schmeirers had traveled a lot together in recent years,  including trips to Asia, Europe, and an Antarctic cruise.

Susan and William Schmeirer

"It just devastated me," Hershberger told WTKR. "My heart almost stopped. Totally unexpected."

The couple worked and volunteered for the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.

"Susan and William Schmierer have been engaged and valued members of the William & Mary community. Our thoughts are with their family at this difficult time," the school said in a statement.

Susan Schmierer, 65, worked part-time in undergraduate admission during the 2010 to 2017 application seasons. William Schmierer, 64, was a member of the Swem Library Board from 2014 to 2016. Both have volunteered with Special Collections and they are the parents of two William & Mary alumni.

"It’s a big mystery and until we get answers to the questions we really don’t know anything," Hershberger said.

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