Private investigator helping search for Big Lagoon woman; $5,000 reward offered in Katherine Gillham missing person case

Jessica Cejnar


The family of a missing Big Lagoon woman has hired a private investigator and is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to her return.

Chris Cook, investigator with McKinleyville-based Cook & Associates Private Investigations, said she is working with the Humboldt and Del Norte County sheriff’s offices to find out why Katherine Gillham, 40, left Grants Pass, Ore., and failed to make it home to Big Lagoon on the morning of June 11.

Gillham left Grants Pass before 2 a.m. and was last seen alive at Elk Valley Casino in Crescent City shortly before 3 a.m., Cook said. There were rumors that Gillham was seen at a Crescent City restaurant around 3:30 a.m., but Cook said she has been able to rule that out by speaking with waitresses.

"Everything between the casino and her home in Big Lagoon has been thoroughly searched," Cook said. "We have a tracker, and we haven’t been able to locate her."

Gillham’s family hired Cook & Associates on June 18, Cook said, about four days after they reported Gillham missing. Because of a communication breakdown, family members had assumed Gillham made it home to Big Lagoon and did not realize she was missing until days later.

Gillham was last seen driving a gray 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor with the license plate number 6UXE841.

Cook said she has talked to witnesses, including family members who last spoke with Gillham, checked credit card records and phone records.

Gillham has friends and family in Hoopa and Weitchpec, Cook said, but she hasn’t been in contact with them.

"Every day it becomes more difficult for them because we don’t have a lot of answers," Cook said. "We’re trying to rule out a lot of things."

Humboldt County Sheriff’s office Lt. Steve Knight said a detective is assigned to the case. The detective has met with the private investigator, but at this point no new leads have developed, he said.

The sheriff’s office still considers Gillham a high-risk missing person due to the time of night when Gillham left Grant’s Pass and that it’s out of character for her not to contact her family, Knight said.

"There are a variety of areas of concern," he said.

Del Norte Sheriff’s office commander Bill Steven said his office assisted with a search on the south end of the county after receiving a tip last week, but didn’t find anything.

"That lead turned up nothing," he said.

Gillham is Native American, 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. According to Cook, Gillham walks with a distinct limp due to knee surgery. She was last seen wearing a brown T-shirt with deer on it and black jeans. Gillham was also wearing a thick chain necklace.

Gillham is a diabetic and may be in need of medical attention, according to Cook.

Anyone with information regarding is asked to call Cook & Associates at 839-7422 or the Humboldt County Sheriff ‘s Department at 445-7251.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at 441-0504 or at