This is such a great story I thought it was important to tell you more. You may recall that two days ago we took a report of a missing 76 year old man who hadn’t been seen for several hours and needed medication at a specific time. He is temporarily living in one of our hotels while some work is being done on his home in another community. He doesn’t drive but he does frequent local restaurants and ride the bus to a few places during the day but has always returned for his medication.
What you have to understand is that missing persons are a high priority to us. We have done a revamp of our policies and procedures dealing with the investigation of missing persons cases–particularly in the case of vulnerable people such as those with mental, emotional and physical disabilities, and those who are very young and those who are elderly. We employ best practices in technological and investigative strategies. We use all state and national resources. We think about everything from the dominant hand theory (depending on which hand they favor is likely to be a direction they pursue – when you enter a store you are more likely to turn right if you are righthanded); to use of social media to spread the word and solicit the help of the public. We canvass for witnesses, conduct careful searches of residences and last known places where they were seen. We use the Sheriff’s helicopter with infrared technology to assist in the search of challenging terrain. We did all those things yesterday and utilized almost all of our day shift units and our entire staff of detectives –all day. We did a grid search of a wooded and marshy area near where he was last seen and came up empty handed.
Late in the afternoon Lt. Miarka came in from the field and we brainstormed anything that we could have missed and ultimately settled on repeating what had already been done at intervals throughout the night. Our concern was heightened because we knew this man had likely been outdoors one night and we knew that last night would be colder and he was still without medication.
Sgt. Bryan Eftink of the afternoon shift is not the kind of guy who gives up easily. He is a hard working and detail oriented kind of guy. He was briefed on what was done during day shift and our belief that repeating as much as possible was all we could do now. Sgt. Eftink said he contacted the family early in his shift to let them know that they had not been forgotten and that he would be continuing the search efforts into the night. So he decided to take an officer with him and retrace the search of the wooded and marshy area near where the man was last seen. They started their search at about 8:00 pm.
He told me that as he and Officer Mike Lane were walking in this area near where southbound ramp of I-75 enters onto westbound M-59 right about 9:00 pm they heard a faint noise like one they thought a wounded animal would make. They stopped and called his name — then they heard the noise a little louder this time. They followed the noise and found the man lying under some vines and heavy undergrowth on the freeway side of the fence that divides the freeway from the commercial property. He told them he was cold and hungry. They were amazed that he was alive. They called an ambulance to transport him to the hospital. Last word they had was that he was going to be ok.
Bryan said that it was the best thing that had ever happened to him at work. He got to call the family and give them good news–unlike so many times when he’s had to call and give bad news. The family’s happiness was thrilling to him and he said he’d never forget it. He kept attributing it to luck. While I agree there was some luck involved it was also his willingness to continue the search, in the darkness, in an area that had been previously searched.
It was a rewarding ending for all of us. We were happy to return a loved one to their family.