MONROE COUNTY, W.Va. – A North Carolina man remained missing Tuesday, 10 days after he was last seen in a remote Monroe County hunting camp.
Police with the West Virginia Dept. of Natural Resources said Timmy Ray Vernon, 22, of King, N.C., was camping with friends in the remote region close to the Virginia border when he struck out on a hike alone.
“There’s not much there—it’s big country and National Forest land,” said Capt. Larry Case with the law enforcement section of the DNR. “He was at a hunting camp with friends from North Carolina, and he walked from the cabin on Saturday afternoon and nobody saw him again.”
A day after leaving the camp, Vernon managed to use his cell phone to call 911 and was able to speak with DNR police officers on two occasions. Case said the use of the phone led searchers to conclude he made it to a high point on Potts Mountain to get a signal.
“They had vehicles set up on different roads and they were hitting their sirens,” said Case. “He was going to walk toward them, but he never walked out and we don’t know why.”
Officers also tried to pinpoint the location of his cell phone using GPS technology.
“They were working off a couple of different cell phone pings,” Case said. “That area was searched extensively with our trackers and a couple of different search dogs, but with no luck.”
By the third day of his disappearance, the phone battery evidently died and no further contact was made. A large number of volunteers searched the rugged area for several days last week. Officers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Paint Creek, Va., volunteer fire department were also involved. As time passed the search eventually broke up with no fresh information on where Vernon might be.
Case said searchers tried using a helicopter, but the foliage was too thick to make any aerial location.
“The area is rough and this is the time of year when the foliage is probably thickest.” Case said.
Although the investigation is still open, Case said most of the major search was called off. A few smaller search parties, organized by private citizens, have continued to comb the wilderness.
“I know the family is worried and concerned,” Case said. “I would be too if it was my son or family member, but right now we really don’t have anything new to tell them.”