Friday Morning Update -- The sheriff spokesman said no trace of Mr. Thebaut had been found as of late Thursday. They are planning a large grid style search, beginning Saturday using trained volunteers from around the state. The public should be advised they will be using the Old Lawson Chevrolet building on Highway 515 as their staging area, command post if anyone notices a large law enforcement presence there over the weekend. The sheriff also released a Missing flyer, see bottom of this article.
At press time Tuesday, the last known sighting of Ben Thebaut, a 79-year-old resident of the Preserve at Sharp Mountain, was him waving at a neighbor when he left on a hike Sunday afternoon.
He was reported missing later that day by his wife when he did not return home. Since then dozens of emergency responders and trained volunteers from here and neighboring areas have spent countless hours combing the trails in the large gated subdivision, using bloodhounds and helicopters with special heat-sensing scanners.
But not one clue to Thebaut’s whereabouts had been found as of press time.
“It’s a strange one,” said Sheriff Spokesman Kris Stancil. “We have not turned up anything.”
At mid-day Tuesday, 60 searchers, including volunteer fire crews from Dalton, Calhoun and Cartersville were working in teams, along with DNR, state patrol, state corrections and Gilmer and Cherokee County crews searching “in less obvious spots” for the retired doctor known to be in good health and an avid hiker/walker, according to Stancil.
Thebaut’s wife told investigators that he regularly hiked for several hours, leaving from their home, but had not taken supplies for more than an afternoon outing with him Sunday.
Stancil said they are still operating with the idea that Thebaut is somewhere in the hundreds of acres of steep, wooded terrain around Sharp Mountain.
“We have seen no evidence pointing us in any other direction,” Stancil said. “There is nothing to lead us to believe he is not in the woods.”
Stancil said as of Tuesday, they had already covered all the obvious spots where he might have gone and they were moving into a general grid pattern search to cover remote areas.
Stancil said there are hundreds of acres of additional wooded terrain connecting to the 1,600 acre subdivision in central Pickens County and Thebaut may have ventured off the trails into other areas.
Sheriff investigators found no evidence of foul play or anything indicating Thebaut was taken or left the gated subdivision in another vehicle. Investigators identified all the cars that passed through the gated entrance on Sunday and saw none that were suspicious.
Investigators are keeping all possibilities open, but Thebaut’s wallet was found in his home – a sign that he had not planned to leave the area, Stancil said.
Thebaut’s mental condition, according to some statements taken by the sheriff investigators, may have shown early signs of dementia, but he had no confirmed mental issues.
Stancil said Tuesday that even if Thebaut had become confused or disoriented, searchers, calling his name, would have come across him in this amount of time if he were near any of the trails and conscious.
Thebaut is believed to have left the house with a handgun, which according to family statements, was not uncommon when he went on longer hikes.
Thebaut is 5’ 09” tall and weighs 180 lbs. with grey balding hair. Anyone with any information should call 911. Stancil said since they made the missing man’s information public, they had received very few calls of anyone thinking they had seen him elsewhere. They had a few calls on walkers, but none matched the description of Thebaut.
Missing Man may have mental issues,
according to sheriff office press release
"Pickens Sheriff’s Office and Pickens Fire are currently in the Sharp Mountain Preserve Subdivision attempting to locate a missing 79-year-old white male. He was last seen walking near his home on Terrace Way at around 3 pm yesterday, wearing a brown sweatshirt and a camouflage “boonie” style hat. His name is Ben Thebaut. Ben is 5’09” tall and weighs 180 lbs with grey balding hair.
Mr. Thebaut has been suffering from dementia like symptoms but this prognosis has not been confirmed by a doctor at this time.
Crews from the Sheriff’s Office, Fire and air support from the Georgia State Patrol searched well into the night and then the investigation moved into the office to begin tracking any possible destinations that Mr. Thebaut could have been traveling to. At day break, crews were joined by the Georgia Department of Natural Resouces on the ground and air support, Georgia Department of Corrections and Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and searching has resumed ever since. At this time, search and rescue teams from Cherokee County are responding to assist as well.
If anyone sees or has any information on the whereabouts of Mr. Thebaut, please call 911 and let them know. At this time, we are only utilizing fire and law enforcement units in the search to ensure that we can use the canine capabilities and safe conditions can be monitored. In the event that the search does expand, the Pickens Sheriff’s Office will share this information on their Facebook site."
Above photo courtesy sheriff's Facebook.