Parma search crews scour woods looking for missing 17-year-old

PARMA, OH (WOIO) - The Parma Police Department reached out to the city's emergency response team Thursday as the search continues for Katarina Bitterman, who went missing Saturday.

Search crews scoured through the West Creek Reservation woods Thursday, near Bitterman's home, looking for any clues they could find that would lead them to the missing 17-year-old.

"We want her home. We don't know where she is or who she's with," said Amanda Karpus, a volunteer who helped search for Bitterman.

Bitterman's family reported her missing Saturday. Parma police said she was last seen around 2:30 p.m. near her home on Augustine Drive.

"As every day goes by, our concern continues to grow," said Parma Police Capt. Kevin Riley.

Police aren't sure where Bitterman is. Capt. Riley said she may not even be near the woods, but they want to search every acre just in case.

"Anything that could help lead us into the right direction of Katarina, potentially she went into the wooded area," he said.

Janelle Spagnola stopped by the search Thursday.

"I was just in shock. I was like, of all people, it's her," she said.

Spagnola said she grew up with Bitterman. Though the two haven't spoken in a while, she doesn't believe the teen would just leave like this.

"I am pretty worried about her, because we were friends," she said. "She just has the biggest heart. She helps everybody."

As search crews hiked through the woods, throughout the neighborhood people handed out missing signs with Bitterman's pictures on them.

"People don't know. There's not enough awareness that she's not home tonight," said Karpus.

As the community rallies together, they hope each step in the search leads them that much closer to finding Bitterman.

"We're going to do everything we can until she's home and safe," said Karpus.

Parma police are working with the FBI and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office. Capt. Riley said they've gotten tips on Bitterman's disappearance, but, because it is an active investigation, they aren't releasing that information.

There is a vigil planned for Friday at 7 p.m. on Augustine Drive, which is where Bitterman was last seen Saturday.

Anyone with information on Bitterman's whereabouts is asked to call the Parma Police Department at 440-885-1234.

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