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Originally published: 2013-05-10 10:30:17
Last modified: 2013-05-10 10:30:17

Missing elderly man found dead in Wilkes

An elderly Boone man reported missing Monday evening was found dead early Tuesday near the site of his wrecked vehicle in Wilkes County.

Family members reported Brady Kermit Cheek, 93, of Rainbow Trail missing around 8 p.m. Monday, said Melissa Harmon, supervisor of Watauga County Communications Center.

After the Watauga County Sheriff's Office took the report and received approval from the family, dispatchers entered Cheek as missing in a nationwide database.

The N.C. Center for Missing Persons issued a Silver Alert around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday for the man, who was believed to be suffering from dementia or another cognitive impairment.

The entry in the nationwide system alerted the Watauga County Communications Center that a Highway Patrol trooper had run Cheek's vehicle tag information around 8:30 a.m. Monday in Wilkes County, Harmon said.

Troopers spotted the vehicle off an embankment on N.C. 16 South north of the Alexander County line while investigating a separate wreck in the area, said First Sgt. B.K. Sharpe of the N.C. Highway Patrol. The troopers did not see anyone around the vehicle, so it was towed and stored, he said.

As Watauga County dispatcher Garrett Norris worked to connect the dots, troopers returned to the scene of the crash around 3:30 to 4 a.m. and did an extensive search of the area, assisted by Wilkes County sheriff's deputies and fire and rescue responders, Harmon and Sharpe said. They planned to conduct an aerial search after the sun rose, Sharpe said.

Cheek's body was found on the opposite side of the highway below a drainage ditch, Sharpe said. It appeared he had stepped out of the vehicle after the wreck and was overwhelmed by the heavy rains, he said.

Funeral services for Cheek will be held Saturday. Austin & Barnes Funeral Home is assisting the family.

While the unusual disappearance ended sadly, Harmon said Cheek might not have been located as readily if not for the perseverance of dispatchers and officers who worked on the case.

She said she was pleased law enforcement officers were able to locate the man as opposed to his family, who was planning to search the area the next morning.

Harmon praised Watauga County Deputy Casey Miller, who took the missing person report, and Norris, the Watauga County dispatcher who worked throughout the night to follow leads.

"It was something that we do on a daily basis, but he did it, and he was diligent," Harmon said.

Norris emphasized that the response was a team effort.

"Deputy Casey Miller also played a tremendous role gathering information and constantly coming up with ideas on what may have happened," Norris said. "Without Miller's insight, this man may never have been found that morning. I also want to thank David Hill and Dave Blanks for assisting with communication efforts while this was taking place."