“What if it was your son?” Police say Michael Gorley case remains active

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023

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STANFORD – What if it was your son?

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That’s the question that mother Sandra Hasty has for anyone who has information about her missing son.

Sandra didn’t know that the morning of May 17, 2015 would be the last time she saw her son, Michael Keith Gorley.

Gorley, 38 years old at the time, said he was going to a friend’s house, said goodbye to Sandra at about 8:30 to 9 a.m. and left their home on McKinney Ridge Road in a grey 2001 Ford Explorer.

That was the last time Sandra saw her son, but it wasn’t the last time anyone saw him. He did go to a friend’s house – and when he didn’t come home that night or the next day – that’s where Sandra went to look for him.

Before that though, something odd happened.

It was about 3:30 to 4 p.m. on May 17 when two women showed up at Sandra’s home saying Michael had driven his truck into a pond on Wilderness Trail Road and the owner wanted it removed.

Sandra and family members went to get the truck out of the pond – which was not submerged, but had two tires in the pond. Michael wasn’t there.

They got the truck out and started calling around to Michael’s friends trying to figure out where he went.

Later that night, at about 11 p.m., Sandra finally got in touch with someone who said Michael was at his house located at 5050 Knob Lick Road (Ky Hwy. 300).

Sandra told them to bring Michael home, but they didn’t. The next day Sandra and Michael’s sister, Jennifer, decided to go to that house to look for Michael. They didn’t know exactly where it was so they went to a gas station to fill up before they started looking. That’s when one of the two women who came to Sandra’s house the previous day suddenly called and said she knew where it was and would show them the way.

“I knew something was wrong when Michael didn’t come home and he didn’t call me,” Sandra said.

When Sandra got to the house, Michael’s shoes and hat were laying on the porch – but he was nowhere to be found. The group of people at the house gave conflicting information, telling Sandra he had taken off walking at different times.

“My son didn’t go anywhere barefoot,” she said. “He wouldn’t even walk in the house barefoot.”

For days, Sandra, family members and friends searched for Michael walking up and down the roads and through the fields in the area with little to no help from police.

Days turned into years.

“It’s been 7 years, 8 months and five days,” Sandra said on Jan. 22.

Michael would be 46 years old today, but his mother has no doubt that he is dead. She has already bought a headstone for Michael and is making payments for funeral arrangements for the day that his remains are found.

Every time Sandra hears about remains being found, she is put through the pain all over again.

“Is it Michael?” She asks the police each time.

No real police work was done on the case until Detective Frank Thornberry was assigned to the case, four-to-six months after Michael went missing, Sandra said.

In the meantime, Sandra kept the shoes and hat in plastic bags, as well as other pieces of evidence she thought would be useful – items the police were not interested in until Thornberry was assigned the case.

Sandra said for the first few months her and her daughter had to be the detectives because police showed no urgency.

“Because he’s a male. He wasn’t a blonde-haired woman, I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the truth,” she said.

Michael had been released from jail five days prior to disappearing. Sandra said the car he was in was pulled over by police and all four occupants were arrested on drug-trafficking charges. Michael and one other person were released in May after a grand jury failed to indict them. The others in the car were convicted.

It took a while for police to take the case seriously, telling Sandra that Michael was a grown man and could take off if he wanted.

Sandra said Michael didn’t have any money and was living with her so the likelihood that he just took off on his own was very slim.

The family hired a private investigator, Michael Ward, to help with the case.

Ward continues that work to this day.

“We are still working it, and will continue to,” Ward said this week.

Sandra spends most of her time trying to bring awareness to her son’s case, as well as hundreds of other families who have missing person cases. She created the group “Missing and Murdered Loved Ones in Kentucky” to bring awareness to the numerous cases in the Commonwealth. The group has over 16K members.

Police still working the case

Detective Frank Thornberry said he hasn’t given up either.

“We’re still working it. We’re still looking for leads and information,” Thornberry said.

Over the course of the investigation, which has been ongoing for over seven years now, Thornberry said he has interviewed over 50 people and is still conducting interviews.

“We’ve done several searches,” he said. “I’ve interviewed the same people multiple times.”

Thornberry said it’s a difficult case because no remains have been found.

But the case isn’t cold, he said.

“Sandra asked me, ‘please don’t let this case go cold,’” Thornberry said. “I’m actively working it…I’ve gone as far as Indiana, I’ve been to western Kentucky, I’ve been to eastern Kentucky.”

Since Michael is technically still a “missing person,” Thornberry said a new KSP Intel Analyst will be looking at the case.

“KSP has an Intel Analyst that solely works on missing people. I’ve reached out to her, she’s working on it,” he said. “Honestly, I just need someone to tell me where he is and I need to go find him. I’ve worked on this case for seven years.”

Unfortunately, if you go into the national missing persons database, there’s a lot of names, Thornberry said.

“It’s just a sad situation,” he said.

Thornberry said anyone with information can contact him directly, or they can submit information anonymously to state police.

“They can call Post 7, or they can go on the Post 7 website and leave an anonymous tip,” he said.

The Post 7 phone number is (859) 623–2404 and the website can be found at https://kentuckystatepolice.org/post7/.

“You can also do Text a Tip,” he said.

Text 67283 in the address field, then type KSPTIP in the message field, leave a space and then enter information about the crime. If your tip went through successfully, you will receive an instant confirmation on your phone.

Information can also be reported to the Private Investigator by calling 859-324-0400.