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WP 'Missing David' series inspires national TV show

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The Wilson Post's six-part "Missing David" series, which last August explored the only open missing person case in the county, has inspired NBC News' Peacock Productions to turn the mysterious vanishing of a Watertown stone mason and artist into an hour-long TV show.

The episode on Watertown's David Riemens, titled "No Stone Unturned," airs on "Disappeared," at 9 p.m. Monday on Investigation Discovery.

Elizabeth Fischer, executive producer of "Disappeared," said that the show's booker said, "that the six-part series in The Wilson Post was definitely instrumental in persuading him that this was a rich and compelling story that was worth pursuing.

"This is our seventh season. We're always looking in for intriguing cases. The booker on this case was really responsible for finding the case. He knew there was something very special about it; He brought it to my attention. We realized the people connected were eager to talk with us so we decided to go ahead with it."

Post series spurs interest from producers

The Wilson Post series ran over a three-week period from Aug. 5-21. On Sept. 3, Post writer Ken Beck received an email from "Disappeared" booker Azriel Relph that stated: "Mr. Beck, I've just read your fantastic series on David Riemens. Great work.

"I am one of the producers on the Investigation Discovery series, "Disappeared," which features open missing person cases. I'm currently looking into new cases for us to pursue. I'd love to have a chat with you on the phone about the case."

Beck and Relph chatted, and by October, Peacock Productions had a crew filming in Watertown.

The result is that Riemens' case will be revealed to the world with the hope that it may lead to solving the riddle.

The show features interviews with Det. Robert Stafford of the Wilson County Sheriff's Department; Dr. Donny and Laura Nuessle, Toni Tatu and Gabrielle Hardy of Watertown; and Riemens' siblings Jim Riemens and Janet Stonerock, who live in Michigan.

Each episode of the heart-wrenching series transports viewers inside the world of a family holding out hope that their missing loved one will be found.

Investigation Discovery's description of the episode reads: On August 8, 2012, stonemason David Riemens has one final meeting to attend about a construction job before he drives from Tennessee to Michigan to visit family. But when the 60-year old never returns home to collect his bags, and his truck is found abandoned in a local parking lot, friends immediately sound the alarm. Desperate to find him, investigators try locating the unknown construction site and look for clues in Riemens' unconventional off-the-grid lifestyle, but every avenue they explore leads to yet another dead end. The only indisputable evidence they have to go on is that Riemens has seemingly vanished into thin air.

What made Riemens case stand out?

As for what factors compelled "Disappeared" to tackle this case, executive producer Fischer said, "In most of the episodes we do there is the element of mystery for sure. This one was really off the charts because David had nothing in his background that seemed to make him potentially vulnerable.

"Also, he seemed to have carved out a really idyllic sort of lifestyle in Watertown. He was a person who didn't need to be reliant on modern devices like many people use day in and day out. He was living on the land working with his hands, a natural artist, and very well liked in the community. He maintained a personal integrity and generosity of sort. All of that made us wonder what happened to him."

At the conclusion of "Disappeared's" seventh season, it will have aired 99 episodes. Of the cases that were unsolved, the show has led to some breaks.

"Definitely there has been development in several of them," said Fischer. "One that we know, because of our show, was solved. With several others there have been developments. Someone missing has returned or, sadly, remains have been found or there have been persons of interest."

This season's slate of shows are all unsolved mysteries.

"We made that a mandate because we wanted to have a call to action where we have a phone number of the local law enforcement that comes up on screen so viewers, if they know anything, can call," Fischer said.

Crew can form bonds with friends, family of missing

Peacock Productions sent about six crew members to Wilson County for a week to shoot the episode. Staffers included a producer, associate producer, cameraman, production assistant and grips. Besides poignant interviews with people who knew David Riemens, the production company filmed cinematic recreations to help tell the story, using mostly local actors.

Fischer noted that their crew often bonds with the families and friends of the people whose cases they investigate.

"I think that week feels like a lot longer time than seven days. It's a very emotional experience. They really do feel for the family members and hope that by putting the story on the air, we can get the word out. We don't expect a miracle, but if we can nudge something along and help the law enforcement. I do think the team that goes does start to feel a strong connection," she said.

What does she believe is the main appeal of the show, which overflows with human tragedy?

"I think people realize that, sadly, this could happen to anybody. We really try to feature what it feels like for the loved ones, to give them an opportunity to tell their story. Sadly, it's relatable because this can happen to very affluent people to people down on their luck. There are no restrictions to who this can happen to. I think people are rooting for the families to get answers."

Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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Missing David on TV

The 2012 missing person case of Watertown stonemason and artist David Riemens will be presented on "Disappeared," at 9 p.m. Monday, May 16, on Investigation Discovery. The episode, titled "No Stone Unturned," features interviews with Det. Robert Stafford of the Wilson County Sheriff's Department; Donny and Laura Nuessle, Toni Tatu and Gabrielle Hardy, all of Watertown.

Finding Investigation Discovery

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