Friends of a local man who disappeared in November fear the worst after learning that a house in Indiana where he had been staying was destroyed by an explosion.

Friends of a local man who disappeared in November fear the worst after learning that a house in Indiana where he had been staying was destroyed by an explosion.

Northwest Indiana police are keeping in touch with Ashland detectives as they continue their search for 38-year-old Garren R. Beller.

Beller, who had an address in the 400 block of Liberty Street, went to visit friends and family in Indiana and Illinois on Nov. 15.

He was last seen at Chicago's Union Station later that week and was scheduled to arrive in Portland via Amtrak on Nov. 21. A friend went to pick him up in Portland, but Beller never arrived.

No one has heard from him, which is unusual, police said.

"From what we know, it was important for him to keep in touch with the people in his life," said Ashland police Sgt. Jim Alderman. "Not a day went by when he was not calling or texting someone."

The investigation kicked into high gear on Nov. 23, when a house in Lake Eliza that Beller stayed in was destroyed in an explosion.

"That certainly raised a lot of red flags," Alderman said. "It is no longer your normal 'missing man' situation since the explosion happened."

No body was found buried in the rubble, Indiana police said.

That is small comfort for Jack Carothers, who befriended Beller over the past year during poker games around Ashland.

"That is a good way to destroy evidence," Carothers said of the explosion. "It just doesn't seem like it's a coincidence."

Carothers has joined 273 people who have banded together to create a Facebook page to collect information about Beller's disappearance.

Those who knew Beller have posted hundreds of messages hoping that he will return safely to Ashland, where he grew up.

Some of the chatter on the Facebook page and around town has involved rumors about a drug deal gone bad or that Beller had fallen in with a dangerous crowd. Alderman acknowledged that some of the banter could be rooted in truth, but most of the accusations are not supported by hard evidence.

"We are open to several different scenarios and won't lock ourselves down to one theory," Alderman said. "Law enforcement here and back in Indiana is searching for that big break that could set this case moving forward."

Beller worked in construction for several years. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, police said. When last seen, he had shoulder-length light brown hair and wore a quarter-carat diamond earring in his left ear.

Anyone with information about Beller and his whereabouts should contact Ashland police Detective Rick Spence at 541-482-5211 ext. 2172.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.