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Authorities hunt for missing man
Elderly Nessmith Road resident focus of search
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Lori Wiggins is comforted by family friend Craig Hunter, left, after finding out an elderly man spotted walking along the road late Friday evening was not her missing father-in-law, Donald Wiggins.
        After hours of searching, law enforcement officers still had not located an elderly man reported missing Friday from his Nessmith Road residence.
    Donald Wiggins, 76, was still missing late Friday night, after officers and K-9 units searched woodlands and other areas near the home, just off Pulaski Highway.
    Bulloch County firefighters and public safety officials pumped a small pond behind Wiggins’ home, but did not find him. K-9 units from Reidsville failed to locate a scent trail for Wiggins, but Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies, Georgia State Patrol troopers and other volunteer searcher  on foot and ATV’s spent all day looking. The Georgia State Patrol aviation unit also responded, using a helicopter to search for Wiggins.
    Residents within a five-mile radius were notified of the situation via a national program called “ A Child Is Missing,” said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Investigator Capt. Todd Hutchens.
    The program uses a global positioning system (GSP) to identify homes in the area, and contacts the residents by phone to alert them of missing children and elderly persons, including giving a description of the missing person, he said. Over 1,000 calls to homes were made to send out the information.
    Wiggins is around 5’8” or 5’9’, weighs around 120 pounds, and has gray, almost white hair with a receding hairline, he said.
    Wiggins suffers from dementia and first-stage leukemia, said his daughter-in-law, Lori Wiggins.
    “He wasn’t talking right last night,” she said.
    Wiggins’ son David said his father kept talking Thursday night about “ going home” and said where he was was “ a building,” and not his home. Wiggins refused to go to the hospital, he said.
    Wiggins lived alone, but family lives nearby.
    Family members checked on him Friday morning and his “phone was busy for two hours,” he said, When family members went to Wiggins’ house,  they found the phone off the hook and a few items toppled, but Hutchens said there was no sign of forced entry or struggle, and nothing appeared to be missing.
    Lori Wiggins said there may have been a checkbook missing, but her father-in-law’s wallet, including his identification, was still at the home.
    Wiggins had health issues, but had been “ walking at the mall” for exercise and could have walked a reasonable distance, she said.
    As they waited, someone received a call about an elderly man walking along Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. Officers rushed to the scene, but the  man was not Wiggins.
    Friends comforted the family members who sobbed with disappointment and worry.
    Around 6:30 p.m., firefighters arrived with the pumps and began removing water from the pond. About three hours later, the pond was emptied and Wiggins still had not been found.
    “If anybody knows anything, please call,” David Wiggins said.
    Anyone with any information regarding Wiggins’ whereabouts or who may have seen him Friday is asked to call the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department at 764-8888 or David and Lori Wiggins at (912) 531-6096 or 531-0512.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414. 
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