Barry Zeldin, disappeared October 7, 2013, Warren Grove Recreation Area, New Jersey.
74-year-old Hunter, Barnett “Barry” Zeldin, left his Mays Landing home on Monday, October 7, 2013 and told his wife he was planning to put bait at a deer stand near Chatsworth in the Warren Grove Recreation Area.
When her husband didn’t come home or call Monday night, Barry's wife, Janet Zeldin, wasn’t worried because he was known to make spontaneous hunting trips that lasted several days. She said “I didn’t think much of it, I figured maybe he got a deer and he was looking for it. He’s very independent." Two days before the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Warren Grove Recreation Area is an undeveloped wilderness perfect for hiking and birding. This 617-acre area is just west of the town of Warren Grove and straddles Ocean and Burlington counties. The land was acquired from the National Park Service in 1972 as part of their Federal Lands to Parks Program. Access into the recreation area is via several sand roads and old woods roads through the area but no marked trails currently exist. The area also is home to rare and endangered plant species.
Authorities believed Barry was in the Burlington County side of the park when he disappeared.
Janet started calling him every hour Tuesday and Wednesday, but all she got was his voicemail on his cellphone. On Thursday October 10th, she tried to drive to the Audubon Gun Club but couldn’t find it. The next day she tried again this time successfully and got several members of the Gun Club to go out looking for Barry.
“A couple of us went out Friday night looking for him and we couldn’t find nothing. Then we went out Saturday, me and three other members of the club, and we found his automobile,” says Wilbur Swales, president of the Audubon Gun Club.
Inside Barry's SUV parked at Warren Grove, a 1992 Chevy Blazer, his keys were in the ignition, windows down, cell phone on the dashboard and his dog Taffy was still waiting for her master, having survived on corn and molasses meant for the deer.
Janet speculated that “He must have left (the dog) her to check on the deer stand or to put some apples out and there was a medical emergency. She does what she’s told, so he must have told her to stay put.”
New Jersey State Police and State Park Police searched for the Barry using using helicopters and sniffer dogs. Search efforts originally concentrated on the Warren Grove Recreation Area, but they expanded to include other parts of the wilderness closer to Bass River State Forest in New Jersey. By Sunday October 13th in the afternoon there were no signs of Zeldin and the search was called off by the authorities.
Volunteers with Burlington County K-9 Search and Rescue went back into the Recreation Area the following Tuesday and planned a larger search the following weekend to try and locate Barry or his body.
Janet said at the time “I know he’s good in the woods, that’s why I never worried, he knows what he is doing in the woods. He’s a very avid hunter, he probably could survive out there indefinitely!"
The weather at the time of the disappearance was overcast, damp and chilly during the day and night. Temperatures were around 66° Fahrenheit (18.9° Celsius) with winds in the teens gusting to 30mph out of the East North East, hence with wind chill temperatures would probably have been in the 40's.
Zeldin’s daughter-in-law, Debbie Zeldin, said“It’s like he just vanished. His car was found with his dog, Taffy, inside. She’s okay, but we’re afraid of what might have happened because he loved that dog. He would have never left her anywhere if he wasn’t going to be right back."
In November 2013, Janet said “Every weekend and sometimes during the week, there is someone out looking for him. There’ve been different rescuers, state troopers, neighbors, friends and the fire department. In two weeks, the shotgun hunters will be going out, and there should be about 1,000 of them pushing for deer. Between the newspaper coverage, TV and word of mouth, everyone out there will know he’s missing and will look for him. As time goes by, I guess I get less hopeful.”
What made Barry leave his dogTaffy inside the car with his cellphone and belongings in the SUV? Clearly he planned to be away a short time. Did he suffer a stroke or heart attack because of his age and fall into the dense undergrowth in the area? Was he attacked by persons unknown? But if so why didn't they steal his car or wallet? What is strange is that he was never found despite his car being located and sniffer dogs being deployed without heavy rain which would have given search and rescue workers a clear start point to their efforts. To this day no sign of Barry or his gear has been found. Another strange hunter disappearance of an experienced outdoorsman who knew the area well. A weird one.