July 24, 2024

Remains found near missing Golconda man’s property, search called off

The search for a missing Pope County man was cancelled Thursday afternoon when remains were discovered near a creek on Shawnee National Forest property, a short distance from his home.

A Missing Person Advisory Alert was sent out for 80-year-old Jerry Harris on Monday after he reportedly wandered away from his Golconda home. The advisory noted he had a condition that placed him in danger. According to Sheriff Suits, that condition was dementia.

Suits, a friend of Harris, said it wasn’t the first time Harris had wandered away from his property.

“He’s walked off two or three times before, and they’ve always found him,” Suits said. “Harris’s wife had to start keeping some closer ties with him. She didn’t think he had been gone hardly in no time.”

The search for Harris involved numerous agencies across Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri, with law enforcement and volunteers searching through miles of wooded areas and abandoned houses. Suits said they pulled in every resource they had to locate Harris.

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“They looked, and we looked,” he said. “We had horses come in here and people who have drones. We, of course, got a lot of canine units that come up here, and then people on four-wheelers; just the routine stuff.”

Suits said they had a possible lead when a K-9 unit became active near a pond on Harris’s property.

“So, we had a canine unit from Murray call me last night,” Suits said. “She was serious and, you know, said they had two hits on a pond or in the area of a pond. So we’re focusing on that.”

Suits said the search was emotional for everyone involved.

“I know him personally, you know,” Suits said. “He was a friend, so it became personal quickly for us. And not just him, but for anybody living in his county, small county, small community, and so, it got dark pretty quick.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the remains were not yet confirmed to be Harris’s.

An alert sent out by the Law Enforcement Alerting Platform at about 4:30 p.m. advised the Endangered Missing Person Advisory had been cancelled. The cancellation summary read, “subject found.”

The Southern Illinois Search Team — a nonprofit organization that’s been working in southern Illinois for over 10 years — had been organizing a search effort for Harris, set to begin early Saturday morning. Thursday afternoon, the group announced it was cancelling its search, but said it would not be answering any questions about the cancellation at that time.

In a Facebook comment, a woman purporting to be Harris’ neighbor of over 30 years, thanked the community for stepping up to search for Harris.

”We cannot express the amount of love & determination we felt from the community. Please keep his family, friends, & neighbors in your prayers,” she wrote.The Pope County Corner was actively working to identify the remains Thursday afternoon.

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