Devastated family grieves after Hellen Cook's body found

Searchers found the remains Sunday near Warsaw where searchers had earlier found clothing belonging to Hellen Cook, who wandered away from her family's home near Truman Lake on July 13.

Howard Cook knows his wife's body was found in a Benton County pond just two miles from their lake area home. He knows by recognizing the wedding ring found on Hellen Cook's body.

"It's been very hard," Howard Cook told KCTV5.

While autopsy and DNA results aren't complete, Benton County authorities believe the body found in the pond is that of the 72-year-old woman who went missing nearly a month ago.

In addition to Hellen Cook's wedding ring, Howard Cook identified other jewelry found on the remains.

Searchers found the remains Sunday near Warsaw where searchers had earlier found clothing belonging to Hellen Cook, who wandered away from her family's lake home near Truman Lake on July 13.

Cook suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had wandered away before. The family lives in Buckner, and they had thought Hellen Cook would try to get back to Jackson County.

Authorities will conduct DNA tests to positively identify the remains.

Hellen Cook's daughter, Terri Cook, said in a statement Sunday night that the family thanked everyone for their help during a monthlong search for her mother.

After Hellen Cook went missing, her family immediately sprang into action to organize searches with hundreds of volunteers. The family turned to social media to spread the word of Hellen Cook's disappearance across the country.

"It was hard going on and not knowing," Howard Cook said. "That's the big thing, simply not knowing."

What they were unsuccessful was in getting an immediate Silver Alert or Benton and Jackson County authorities to launch massive searches in those initial days. The family pressed for the pond where Hellen Cook was found to be searched.

It was partially drained, but divers didn't find her. The family hired a professional dive team from St. Louis. Within a day, the team found Hellen Cook's remains just a few yards from shore and near where her shoes had been found days earlier.

"I wish Benton County would have gotten a massive search going within a day or two," Howard Cook said. "Yes, I wish they would have put out a Silver Alert immediately."

However, he said, "their hearts were in the right place," and he didn't want to criticize them. He said Benton County officials immediately worked hard when he first reported his wife missing.

He said he is grateful to those from Whiteman Air Force Base and others who searched through thick terrain to help bring his wife home. He is also thankful to the St. Louis dive team.

"So appreciate all the kind words and prayers," Howard Cook said. "It is just overwhelming. We are extremely thankful for it."

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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