COLUMBIA — Defense attorney Richard W. "Rick" French was reported missing around 11 a.m. Wednesday after he failed to appear at a scheduled trial for a client.
French works for the Cole County Public Defender's Office in Jefferson City. He called in Tuesday to take a personal day, but Cathy Kelly, deputy director of the state defender's office, said there was nothing unusual in the message.
"I think he left a voicemail or spoke with the receptionist," Kelly said. "He wouldn't have had to give a reason. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the request."
French was expected in court Wednesday morning to defend Martez Robinson in a burglary and sexual assault case, but when he didn't show up, the office contacted his family.
"We don't know anything about it except that he's missing," Kelly said. "He handled some serious cases, certainly, but nothing that stands out as being tied to this."
French has worked as a public defender for 12 years. He worked in Kennett for three years before moving to Troy for another three years. He has been working at the Cole County office in Jefferson City for the past six years.
District defender Thomas Gabel worked with French when he was in the Troy office.
"He is a good attorney dedicated to taking care of the poor and the indigent," Gabel said. "We are just as dumbfounded as everybody else."
Gabel and Kelly both expressed concern for French's well-being and said they hope his disappearance is resolved soon.
"He is a very nice guy, and we enjoy having him around the office," Kelly said. "Our thoughts are with his family, and we hope everything works out well."
Information about French's whereabouts can be reported to the Columbia Police Department at (573) 874-7652.