Wilderness Disappearances

Barry Zeldin - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Barry Zeldin, disappeared October 7, 2013, Warren Grove Recreation Area, New Jersey.

Barnett Barry Zedlin disappeance NJ

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.

warren grove

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.

 Janet Zeldin

Janet Zeldin

“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.

 Barry Zeldin SUV location FAA Radio Tower Road, NJ

Barry Zeldin SUV location FAA Radio Tower Road, NJ

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.

 Inkberry bushes Warren Grove Recreation area

Inkberry bushes Warren Grove Recreation area

Inkberry Warren Grove

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. 

Sources

https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/show/22276

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/10/15/wife-speaks-out-as-search-continues-for-missing-nj-hunter/

https://www.visitnj.org/nj-biking/warren-grove-recreation-area

http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/49bb3f98-8ccb-5a3e-9ffc-91b5b496535a.html

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Hunter-Still-Missing-as-Hunting-Season-Approaches--234157501.html

http://6abc.com/archive/9284780/

https://forums.njpinebarrens.com/threads/man-goes-missing-during-hunting-trip.9590/page-2

Andrew Warburton - Disturbing disappearances and deaths in Canadian wilderness

Andy Warburton, disappeared July 1st, 1986, Tucker Lake, Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia, Canada

Andrew Warburton disappearance nova scotia

Parents Doreen and Tom Warburton from Hamilton, Ontario in Canada took their two sons Gary and Andy to see relatives in Beaver Bank, near Dartmouth in Nova Scotia in July 1986.

They were staying with Aunt Helen and the Bulger family on Tucker Lake road. On July 1st, 1986, Andy (9) and Gary decided to go swimming with the twins at the Carr residence on the same road at the nearby Tucker Lake. Violet Carr the twins mother told the children at 3.40pm that they could go swimming for 20 minutes. Three of the four children headed off towards the lake but Andy was delayed for some reason and the others left without him. They were wearing their swimming outfits.

Warburton disappearance family pic
 Doreen Warburton

Doreen Warburton

 Tom Warburton

Tom Warburton

Just behind the Carr house is a pathway to Tucker Lake through woodland with a fork, the right heading towards the lake and the left fork moving deeper into the woods. Violet saw Andy at around 4 pm on her back step but after that, he vanished. Never to be seen alive again.

Helen and Doreen started dinner and noticed that Andy was nowhere to be seen and the other children did not know where he had gone as they had not seen him at the lake.

Tucker lake Nova Scotia

The family checked with neighbours, the path and lakeside then called  the RCMP and officers arrived at 5.45pm. The RCMP saw a young boy called Hobb Mcdonald who had just come back from summer camp that day and said he seen Andy earlier that day by a stream called Beaver Bank River. He had apparently taken his tennis sneakers off, crossed the water and then put them back on. But Andy's mother was surprised at this story as apparently he was scared of the river because he had got covered in leaches the last time he went in it. Andy was never far away from the twins but the RCMP never questioned them for some reason.

At 6.30pm tracking dogs went in to the woods, went across the river and circled back. They were never taken in the area of Tucker Lake. Waverley search and rescue arrived with around 100 searchers in the wood, most of them across the Beaver Bank River. 

Andy Warburton searchers

The Canadian Emergency measures organisation (EMO) coordinated the search, directed by Bernie Marshall, only his second search in the role and he had no formal training.

During mid-afternoon on day 2, July 2nd, it started raining and the temperature dropped to 53 degrees F (12℃).

On day 3 searchers were looking in ever-widening circles. There were three separate accounts that Andy was seen or heard north of Hamilton Lake, on the Chesapeake road and directly west of Tucker Lake, focused the attention of rescue teams. Searchers reported seeing a boy running away from them and being "Spooked". But these reports were possibly false and the calling of porcupines could be mistaken for a boy screaming or a fawn running through undergrowth, which were common in the area. Still no luck in locating Andy with time running out because of the cold and wet conditions.

By day 5, fourteen organised search and rescue teams were deployed but were not co-ordinated and were using different maps and radios. Hundreds of volunteers turned up to help, but were often left waiting for instructions. On Day 7 the military were finally dispatched in the area and Andy's sneakers were located.

On Day 8, after 165 hours of search operations, Andy's body was found north of Square Lake in Rasley Meadow, a 3 mile (4km) walk from the area of Tucker Lake at around 5.30pm. The body was in an alder thicket in a gully of marshy ground and outside the primary search area in a curled up foetal position. He had bad scratches on his legs. The coroner reported he probably died on day 4 or 5 based on the autopsy. results The searchers had never thought to look in Rasley Meadows as he had wandered further than they expected.

Tucker lake to Rasley Meadow

Expert trackers say the average person leaves behind two thousand clues for every mile travelled, from broken twigs, to footprints to twisted blades of grass. A team of well-trained searchers spaced ten feet apart can usually pick up ninety-five percent of these clues. But they found nothing.

Professor Ken Hill, a child psychologist from St. Mary's University in Halifax was asked by the RCMP to help in the search by giving information as to how a child would behave when lost. After Andy was found dead he was determined to do more research into disappearances and used the data of William Syrotuck, a researcher in the United States and conducted interviews with survivors to ascertain the psychology of those who get lost. 

He found that many children between seven and twelve years are "Stranger Resistant" and won't respond to rescuers and will tend to run, usually covering between 0.92 and 1.7 miles. They are often afraid of punishment and won't answer searchers until they are cold and hungry.

The search for Andy Warburton was criticised for being chaotic and unplanned. Stranger Resistance may have been a factor but also the primary search area was wrong because of reports of sightings near Hamilton Lake. What exactly happened near Tucker Lake and why Andy ended up in Rasley Meadows is the mystery, a distance of 3 miles which is further than most children of his age would travel when lost. Why did the other children take so long in noticing that Andy was not with them swimming in Tucker Lake, particularly his brother Gary? Despite thousands of searchers and hundreds of hours, the effort failed to locate Andy in time,. What kept Andy hidden for so long? A sad and disturbing tale which led to further valuable research in missing persons by Hill and Syrotuck which helped subsequent search and rescue operations.

Sources

Documentary 8 days in July https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1xyP2CopHY

The Survivors Club: The secrets and science that could save your lifeBy Ben Sherwood

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=h0vL7ZPS6QkC&pg=PT139&lpg=PT139&dq=andy+warburton+tucker+lake&source=bl&ots=5i_yY1kenT&sig=AiF6ycKIDEyLGovN3uH9isUw_NE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjRtoP8p-HZAhVPF8AKHRarDOwQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=andy%20warburton%20tucker%20lake&f=false

Michael Jose Malinowski - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Michael Jose Malinowski, disappeared October 24, 1996, Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon West Rim.

Michael Jose Malinowski disappearance

Michael Malinowski, 37, left his home in Yardley, Bucks County, PA on Thursday, October 24, 1996. It would be the last time he would ever see his home again.

The bearded mental health counsellor, a divorced father with one child, worked at Greater Trenton Community Mental Health Center. He attended a psychology seminar that morning in Chester County, then drove about 200 miles north to spend a couple of days hiking and taking pictures in Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

Pine Creek Gorge, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania", is a 47-mile (76 km) gorge carved into the Allegheny Plateau by Pine Creek in north-central Pennsylvania. It sits in about 160,000 acres (650 km2) of the Tioga State Forest. The canyon begins south of Ansonia, near Wellsboro, along U.S. Route 6 and continues south. Its deepest point is 1,450 feet (440 m) at Waterville, near the southern end. At Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, it is more than 800 feet (240 m) deep and the distance rim-to-rim is about 4,000 feet (1,200 m).

 Pine Creek Gorge

Pine Creek Gorge

Mike checked in at the Pine Tree Lodge in Gaines near the Canyon at around 4.30pm. The Lodge was built in the early 1930's by President Roosevelts' Grand Army of the Republic and has beautiful valley views over-looking Pine Creek. Each cabin has its own covered porch and cooking facilities and are surrounded by woodland and wilderness. 

He checked in at the lodge for a stay of two nights and that evening he made a phone call to his roommate, Greg Rossi, indicating that all was well. That was the last time anyone heard from Mike.

 Pine Tree Lodge Gaines

Pine Tree Lodge Gaines

On October 27, a Forestry Bureau worker found Malinowski's rented 1995 Nissan Sentra in the parking area at the Barbour Rock access, on the west rim of the Gorge. In the car, police found an unzipped day pack on the front seat with a cellphone inside, Malinowski's jacket on the passenger's seat, a nearly two-thirds empty water jug, some apples, a box of low-fat Cheez-its crackers, and an empty camera case on the dashboard. A pair of tan, rubber-soled boots were also found. A cassette was on the car's tape player.

The manager at the Pine Tree Lodge reported Mike missing on Monday, October 28th. The bed in his cabin appeared to have been slept in. He obviously was very meticulous. All his things were put away very neatly. There was enough clothing for a two-day stay. His coat was draped over a chair, and his shoes were carefully stowed beneath the bed. 

Steve Farrell, superintendent of Colton Point State Park, where the canyon is located, said that, despite one of the most extensive searches ever conducted in that rugged, mountainous area, no trace of Malinowski was found. Farrell said that up to 125 firefighters and other volunteers, dogs trained to find people dead or alive, nine rappelling teams, and three helicopters spent five days from dawn to dusk searching the canyon's walls and came up with no sign or evidence at all. "You go home at night, and you can't sleep, wondering where he is. Is he hurt? What have I overlooked?" said Farrell. "We still don't know what happened. All we know is he is not accounted for." Gaines Township Police Chief Mark Resue, who first investigated Malinowski's disappearance, said he was equally frustrated. "It's one of those puzzles you try to fit the pieces together, and none of them seem to work. I'm thoroughly satisfied with the job the searchers did. I've never seen such an extensive search, and yet nothing was found."

The Pennsylvania State Police, said there was no evidence of foul play and no indication that Malinowski would have ended his own life. 

Chief Resue said it looked as if Mike parked the car, perhaps filled a couple of bottles with water, grabbed his camera, and took off for a hike over trails he knew well. A photo album supplied to police showed that he had been at that spot on the western rim several times before, taking pictures during different seasons.

Police and park officials say they had several theories, including that Malinowski had a fatal or incapacitating accident and died in the woods; that he committed suicide after walking far from where he parked his car; that he arranged his own disappearance; that he was killed by a stranger or someone who knew him, either at the canyon or near his cabin; and finally that Malinowski was accidentally killed by a hunter who panicked and fled with the body.

But each theory, they say, had holes. Mark Resue said that he could find no reason for Malinowski to want to disappear, that he was looking forward to moving west within a year to be near his son, who lived with his former wife, and that none of his bank accounts had been touched since his disappearance. There was no evidence of a struggle in the cabin or in and around the car, and there was no indication that Mike was depressed or suicidal. Regarding the hunter theory, it was squirrel and grouse season at the time, and deer hunting was not allowed. Malinowski and his former wife separated three years before his disappearance and were divorced a year before taking their 10 year old son with her. Police said she knew nothing about her former husband's disappearance and had moved to Seattle.

According to friends and family Malinowski had no reason to disappear, and was not suicidal. He was not in debt, nor depressed. He was a vegetarian, didn't use drugs and rarely drank. He wasn't in a romantic relationship at the time. His credit cards show no activity since 1996.

But the thorough searches of the area in and around the The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania failed to find any trace of him and more than two decades on Mike Malinowski remains missing.

Sources

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/2287dmpa.html

The Philadelphia Inquirer,Tuesday, December 24, 1996 https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/179225131/

JR Shoemaker - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Victor Dwight Shoemaker Jr, " J.R.", disappeared May 1st 1994, kirkby, West Virginia

JR Shoemaker disappearance virginia

Victor Dwight (or Dewight) Shoemaker Jr, called J.R., was five years old when he went to visit his grandfather, Oscar Wolford. His mobile home, was located in Kirby (south of Augusta) near Short Mountain Wildlife area in west Virginia. He was playing with his two cousins, 8 and 9, just behind his grandfather's home on on May 1st, 1994, when he mysteriously vanished without a trace. 

J.R.'s father, Victor Sr., was a maintenance man at a Leesburg apartment building, and his mother, Nettie, worked on an assembly line at an electronics plant in Loudoun. They drove from Leesburg to the Wolford property on Saturday, April 30th.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, May 1st, J.R. and two of his cousins -- 8-year-old Lloyd Wolford and 9-year-old Tommy Martin, went outside to roam the woods. "They went a-huntin'," said Oscar Wolford, chuckling as he considered his grandsons' lively imaginations. "That was their hobby. They'd come back and say, 'Oh, I killed a big buck.'

The boys played for about thirty minutes until approximately 8:30 a.m., when J.R. got hungry and said he was returning to his grandfather's home for food alone. But when Tommy and Lloyd returned to the trailer there was no sign of J.R..

Search teams began looking within an hour, West Virginia State Police said. They have focused on a four-square-mile area around the trailer, believing that the boy lacks the endurance to get any further than that. 

The boys had wandered safely in the woods together many times before and it was one of the few places where Nettie Shoemaker, who had tried for years to have a baby before conceiving J.R., would let her son play out of her sight.

Short Mountain Wildlife Reserve

At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing red Bugs Bunny T-shirt, red shorts and white X-Men sneakers. J.R. was familiar with the mountainside and always knew his way back.

Although J.R. was said to be strong for his age and fond of the outdoors, the rugged mountainside terrain was no place for a 5-year-old on his own. The paths are steep and twisting; the forest is thick; houses are few and far between and a treacherously dense layer of leaves covers gullies and rocks.

Searchers using a helicopter equipped with infrared equipment to detect heat and dog teams searched the ground. Lisa K. Hannon, who helped coordinate an all-night search was killed Tuesday May 3rd, 1994, when her car ran off a road and struck a tree.

The search for J.R. lasted for five days in rainy weather with temperatures in the 30s before being called off on Thursday, May 5th, in the evening. Over the next five months, National Guard and Army Reserve units used weekend training time to search for signs of the boy. In addition, the FBI was called in, suggesting that the authorities believed that foul play might have been involved.

 Victor Shoemaker Sr and wife Nettie Shoemaker 2014

Victor Shoemaker Sr and wife Nettie Shoemaker 2014

Investigators conducted several interviews of the cousins, who told police they lost track of J.R. Parents Victor Dwight Shoemaker Sr and Nettie Shoemaker stated that they believed the cousins acted strangely when the came out of the woods and they haven't talked to that family since. When Victor Shoemaker tried to talk to the other boys, 'they wouldn't say anything about it.' One cousin's family lived in a mobile home on the mountain, the other was from a small town in Pennsylvania.

Victor believes his son was abducted but there have been no arrests. No suspects have been identified, and police have found no indication of foul play or family involvement. The Shoemakers speculate that the son was brainwashed and is alive but living a different identity.

In 2014, 'At this time, all investigative leads have been exhausted,' said FBI supervisory special agent Greg Heeb in Pittsburgh. In 1997, the FBI said it was made aware of a report that a dark-coloured pickup truck had been spotted in the area the day J.R. vanished. But the tip never led to anything. Another unconfirmed theory: instead of keeping its nose to the ground, a police dog looking for scents of the boy held its nose in the air as it travelled across a grassy field, leading to speculation that someone had carried the boy from where he was last seen down to the road.

'You talk about a cold case. That is a cold case,' said former Sgt. B.L. Burner, a state police spokesman who retired in 2001. 'There was nothing concrete. Everybody there had their suspicions.'

What happened to J.R, out in those woods while playing with his cousins that day in May 1994? Was he injured by his cousins, got lost on his way back to his grandparent's property or abducted as his parents believe? The suspicious behaviour of the cousins could be guilt or perhaps Post Traumatic Stress from some incident which happened during J.R.'s disappearance. Twenty four years on, no sign of him or his remains has been found.

Sources

http://charleyproject.org/case/victor-dewight-shoemaker-jr

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1994/05/05/lost-in-a-forbidding-forest/14ed224a-ca72-46b4-8d1a-4444fb378214/?utm_term=.95881649010b

https://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?11689-WV-Victor-Shoemaker-5-Kirby-1-May-1994

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2617036/Parents-want-sons-1994-W-Va-disappearance-solved.html

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-05-05/news/9405050339_1_search-for-victor-hunting-area-acre

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19940509&id=5eYyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uAcGAAAAIBAJ&pg=4308,1607015&hl=en

Alissa Marie McCrann - Strange disappearances from the U.S. wilderness

Alissa Marie McCrann, disappeared December 19th, 2015, Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Alissa Marie McCrann Multnomah falls disappearance

Alissa Marie McCrann, 37, from Portland in Oregon disappeared whilst on a run near the Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge on Saturday, December 19th, 2015. The attraction is around a 30 minute drive from Portland.

The authorities were informed on Monday December 21st, when Alissa didn't turn up for work at Sunshine Dairy. Her cellphone was last used at around 10am on December 19th to make a Facebook post but after that calls went to voice mail. The phone last pinged on Cascade Ave in Tigard, around a 45 minute drive to the Falls. 

Her 2011 Mazda CX7 was found parked at the Multnomah Falls parking lot on December 22nd after Alissa left her home located in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood. She lived with her Korean parents and her 13-year-old son and had no known medical or mental health issues. 

Multnomah Falls Oregon

A couple reported a possible sighting of Alissa on the Saturday afternoon at around 3pm near Franklin ridge. She was wearing running clothes and shoes but had no food or water with her and was not wearing gear suitable for cold weather. Searchers scoured trails with no luck. They said they have spoken to Alissa and advised her to head back to her car but she had run off down the trail in an apparent bid to stay warm.

According to Outdoorproject.com, "The Franklin Ridge Loop hike is a great option for hikers looking to link up the heavily trafficked, well-known waterfalls along Multnomah and Oneonta Creek with several peaceful miles of solitude. It is also a good transition from from the area's easier day hikes into the more strenuous hikes."

Over 100 Searchers scoured over 150 miles of trails in the gorge focusing on around Franklin Ridge, but found nothing, hampered by over a foot of fresh snow at higher elevations. Sniffer dogs were deployed but failed to pick up a scent. Crews say they had a plane fly over the area but the pilot found no signs of McCrann anywhere. 

The search was suspended on Thursday, December 24th due to the dangerous weather conditions. The sheriff's office consulted with a wilderness doctor from OHSU Hospital, and the Portland Police Bureau's missing persons unit before deciding to suspend search efforts.

A friend Eric Ledecky describes her an an upbeat, friendly person."She'd do anything for you. She's the first one at your party. During birthdays, she gets you things. She'd help others out without asking for things in return. She's a good person. Everyone should have a friend like her."

On Saturday, January 23, 2016, the search for Alissa was resumed, which police classified as a recovery mission. 60 volunteers took part but again no luck. The Facebook page dedicated to finding her posted an update after the weekend search ended. "Even though we did not find her, it felt wonderful to know the community has not forgotten Alissa. Such an amazing outpouring of love and support. Again, all my love and respect goes out to the teams that helped orchestrate this latest search. They had a lot of manpower above the falls today and hopefully the next search is the one that brings her home. We really miss her."

Over two years after Alissa disappeared, no trace has been found of her remains. It is strange that she was seen running so late in the day in December when darkness would soon fall, especially for an experienced runner in Oregon. Did hypothermia cause her to run off trail for some reason and seek shelter which has made it more difficult to locate her body? Despite her 13 year old son, did she plan to intentionally disappear?

Sources

https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/32242/10

http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2015/12/sheriffs_office_suspends_searc.html

http://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/search-suspended-for-portland-woman-missing-near-multnomah-falls/283-7342607

http://www.kptv.com/story/30820041/possible-sighting-of-missing-woman-on-columbia-gorge-hiking-trail

https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/oregon/hikes/franklin-ridge-loop-hike

https://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?297152-OR-Alissa-McCrann-37-Tigard-19-Dec-2015/page1

Eric Smith - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Eric Grady Smith, disappeared November 8th, 2013, Cedar Bluff, Virginia. 

Eric Smith, Cedar Bluff disappearance

On Friday, November 8th, 2013, Eric Smith left his home on West Hurt buggy Road in Cedar Bluff in Virginia to go hunting on his 40 acre property. That was the last time he was seen and over four years later Eric has never been found. 

That evening Eric hadn't returned and with temperatures dropping, his wife first went to see his mother at a local church with her concerns. The congregation of the church then sprang into action to begin the informal search and subsequently authorities were notified.

Eric was a foreman at a local Consol Energy owned Buchanan No. 1 coal mine, in charge of over 500 people. Unusually for him, his wife had called in sick on his behalf for several days before his disappearance saying he had flu-like symptoms. He was blind in one eye. 

He was wearing camouflage-print hunting clothes and a titanium Timex watch and carrying a Thompson Center .50 calibre muzzle-loading gun with a stainless steel barrel and a camouflage-print stock. Unusually,  he left his cellphone behind at his house. 

A Virginia state police helicopter with FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) was used that night and the next day a search began using sniffer dogs.  Several scents leading from the Smith residence were detected but went nowhere. At least one of these trails appear to head back to the home but could have been some days old. 

Cedar Bluff Police Chief David Mills said “Smith carried a muzzleloader with him, with one shot likely already loaded so search coordinators brought explosive detection dogs into the search yesterday from the Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. These dogs are trained to detect material that goes into explosive devices with includes gun powder.”

By Sunday afternoon, November 10th, around 60 people were involved including trained search and rescue teams from across the region, coworkers from Consol Energy, fire department members, and other members of the community. Six air scent dogs were also used. Cedar Bluff Police Chief David Mills, coordinator of the search said with Smith wearing high tech camo the search was much more difficult. “He can be lying down and he would be impossible to see,” Mills said. The terrain was also a big problem in the search. With thick underbrush and steep hills, it is necessary to cover an area multiple times to be thorough.

Despite a $20,000 reward for information leading to his location and or recovery nothing was found or reported

Eric hunted on his property year after year and knew them inside out. His tree stand was less than a mile from his home so if he was overcome by illness/weakness it would have been expected he would have been found quickly. Yet there has never been any sign of Eric, his clothing or his weapon despite extensive searches. Some believe he was never on the property and may have run off, but this seems unlikely as he was close to his family. Others have speculated that his wife may have been involved, as Eric was not heard from or seen because of his apparent illness for days before he vanished.  Another theory was that Eric was accidentally shot by someone hunting in the area where his stand was and hid his body or he came across illegal hunters or meth producers who may have harmed him. Some have postulated that he fell in a sinkhole or cave and that is the reason that neither his firearm or bones have turned up. It is certainly strange that no trace has ever been found and it does raise suspicions that he was intentionally removed from the area or disappeared of his own accord. 

Sources

http://charleyproject.org/case/eric-grady-smith

http://www.bdtonline.com/news/no-trace-years-later-tazewell-county-resident-still-missing-after/article_afc7cfca-9d9e-11e7-aa2d-43b3a3cd0bd5.html

https://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?228348-VA-Eric-Smith-42-Cedar-Bluff-8-Nov-2013

http://www.swvatoday.com/news/richlands_clinch_valley/article_7e3b248c-6433-11e3-b4fb-0019bb30f31a.html