Missing, mourned and alive: Sergeant startles survivors

June 13, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

A shoe, a wallet, a skid mark and a battered bicycle -- that was all Air Force Sgt. Doug Pou left behind May 12, 1987, the day he vanished while taking a pre-dawn bike ride near his home in Albuquerque, N.M.

For 60 days, anguished airmen searched for their buddy, unwilling to believe the star of their elite Air Force para-rescue team could be gone. Friends posted fliers bearing his picture, and relatives hired a private detective and offered a $5,000 reward.

Finally, everyone gave up: The military declared Doug Pou dead, and those who had loved him went on with their lives.

This week, the sandy-haired man surprised them all. In San Diego Wednesday, Air Force investigators arrested Sergeant Pou -- who was living there under an alias -- and charged him with desertion.

Sergeant Pou, pronounced "pew," is now in jail at March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif.,

His wife, Suzy, who relocated to Washington state with the couple's two sons, was scheduled to be remarried next month. But Sergeant Pou has spoiled those plans: State law forbids the union now that her first husband has turned up.

Then there are Sergeant Pou's former teammates at the prestigious para-rescue school, housed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. "The mood is devastation -- complete devastation," said Sgt. Bill Burton, a close friend who led the search for his body. "This job is dangerous, and everything you do depends on your buddy, your friend. To have a brother pull something like this guy pulled . . . it just floors you. . . . We all just want to know why."

Air Force officials will not talk about the circumstances surrounding the sergeant's arrest, saying only that he was seized at a San Diego home.

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