'This is personal': Detective, community members search for missing Rowan County woman Jill Clayton

Posted at 3:13 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 18:16:29-05

MOREHEAD, Ky. (LEX 18) — On day 15 of the search for Jill Clayton, detectives from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public to get involved. The plan worked, as approximately 40 members of the community arrived at 9 a.m. to begin scouring the area near Clayton’s home.

“I’ve known Jill since we were kids, and we haven’t remained great friends recently or anything like that, but this is personal," said Detective Donny Hall, who is leading this investigation. "And I think that’s the reason for such a good turnout today."

Hall said foul play was likely involved in Clayton’s disappearance. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since Thanksgiving morning when witnesses told police they overheard an argument Clayton was having with her boyfriend Gary Jeffries.

Days later, Jeffries, who is listed as a person of interest in Clayton’s disappearance, was picked up by Louisville Metro police and arrested on an unrelated charge. His arraignment on that charge is scheduled for Dec. 18.

This morning, search party volunteers met at the Rowan County courthouse, caravanned up to Clayton’s home near KY-3317, and after being given instructions, headed off into the woods to begin looking for anything like might lead investigators back to Clayton (a 1 ½ mile search perimeter was established).

George Brooks was among those who helped look. To him, Jill Clayton is a complete stranger.

“That’s somebody’s daughter,” Brooks said. “If it was one of my family members I’d appreciate all the help I could get, too."

Katherine Holbrook, Jill’s sister, has been overwhelmed by that kind of sentiment and all of the support.

“I don’t even know how to thank these people, because it blows me away,” Holbrook said before the start of the search. “It’s so amazing all of these people showed up to find someone most of these people don’t even know."

Jeffries has been questioned by Hall, but offered very little information. That he covered more than 120 miles during his drive to Louisville presents a real challenge, Hall said.

“Ms. Clayton could be anywhere between here and there,” Hall said, before adding that they have been able to eliminate certain things, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover.

Hall said it’s possible the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office will be able to charge Jeffries in connection to Clayton’s disappearance before he posts bond, or has his arraignment -- whichever comes first.