The family of Joel Moses, who has been missing since March 7, now has some degree of closure after Moses’ body was recovered from the Clearfork River late Saturday morning.
“I am glad that it has come to a close,” Joel Moses’ uncle, Charles Moses, said Saturday afternoon from the staging area where emergency officials had resumed their search that morning.
“I prayed to the Lord today myself that I wanted closure on this. He was alive or dead and I wanted closure on it. I didn’t expect him to be alive. We got closure and that is fine.”
Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses said officials decided to resume the water-based search for Joel Moses Saturday morning.
“Thursday, I came up here and I went through Tackett Creek looking in the river. Really, I wanted to satisfy my mind as to whether he was here or not,” Danny Moses said.
Danny Moses said he thought that the body should have been in the river long enough that it would have floated to the surface by now if it were in the water.
He contacted several fire chiefs about resuming the search with boats on Friday, but that wasn’t a good time so they decided to wait until Saturday morning.
The hold up was waiting for a gentleman from Tennessee, who could run sonar.
Officials met about 8 a.m. Saturday at the US25W bridge, which is just south of the new Pleasant View Elementary School, to plan out the operation.
Officials put a raft in the water about 10:48 a.m. and members of the Woodbine Fire and Rescue discovered the body about 11:24 a.m.
It was among debris in the Clearfork River about one mile from the US25W bridge where Moses was last seen and where his vehicle was discovered.
Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley pronounced Joel Moses, 48, dead about 12:40 p.m. Saturday.
“As of now we are working it as a death investigation. We have a lot of people to talk to,” Sheriff Colan Harrell said Saturday. “A lot of it will be determined by what the pathologist findings are.”
Charles Moses said the family will miss Joel but at least they can now relax a little bit.
“I wanted to find him. Alive or dead I wanted to find him. I was hoping for the best but I expected the worst,” Charles Moses added.
A Golden Alert was issued for Joel Moses about 1:50 p.m. on March 7 after his vehicle was found unattended in the Pleasant View community near the Clearfork River. His family then notified the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department that they were concerned about Moses’ safety.
Now that the mystery of whether Joel Moses was alive or dead has been solved, investigators are turning their attention to several other questions surrounding the case, such as how Moses died and how long his body has been in the water.
Moses body was autopsied Sunday at the state medical examiner’s office in Frankfort.
“Everything is consistent with submergence of drowning, but at this time we are still pending toxicology,” Croley said Monday afternoon. “The cause of death will be determined as drowning. The manner of death is still pending further investigation. I can’t determine the manner of death until I have more answers.”
When Moses died is unclear.
For five days starting on March 7, numerous volunteer firefighters and rescue officials conducted water-based search operations along the river dragging for a body in addition to using sonar equipped boats and having two search dog crews go up and down the river bank looking for any signs of Moses.
Officials discontinued their water-based search operations on March 12, which is the day after wet clothing was found in Joel Moses Brush Arbor apartment, which wasn’t there two days earlier when a relative looked.
Harrell said Saturday that officials didn’t know how long Moses’ body had been in the water and whether it has been in the river since he went missing or a shorter period of time.
Due to a number of unknown factors, such as varying water temperatures, whether the body was completely submerged or partially submerged the whole time and in what depth of water, Croley said there was no way to scientifically determine how long Moses had been dead but it is possible he has been in the water since March 7 when he was reported missing.
Charles Moses said Saturday that he would still like to know whether his nephew was shot and that someone had reporting hearing five shots in the area around the time his nephew probably would have been there.
The autopsy revealed no gunshot wounds.
“There was no injury that was caused by man. No,” Croley said Monday afternoon.
Joel Moses also reportedly withdrew money from ATM before he died that wasn’t found in his wallet, which was located near the riverbank.
Even though emergency officials suspended their water-based search for Joel Moses on March 12, Danny Moses said the search has continued to some degree every day.
Danny Moses said he, Woodbine Volunteer Chief Rick Fore and various volunteer firefighters from Pleasant View, Emlyn and South Whitley have all walked along the riverbank looking for any signs of the body in the water.
“We have driven through Tackett Creek and checked the Clearfork. Somebody has been working every day. We just don’t have the presence that we had today,” Danny Moses said Saturday afternoon.
Danny Moses said that based upon his experience in dealing with drowning victims, sometimes you just have to wait for the body to float back to the surface in order to find it.
“Especially if you don’t have a spot exactly where they went in,” Danny Moses added.
The amount of time between when Joel Moses went missing and when he was reported missing also hindered efforts making it difficult for officials to know where to look in the river. Moses said that the last confirmed sighting of Joel Moses was at 2:30 a.m. on the day he was reported missing.
“For instance, if we had someone swimming that went down and someone could point to that spot then we would start looking about 25 feet down river and work our way back up river and normally you would find them,” he said. “In this instance, we didn’t have a witness where he went down at.”
He added that there are a number of factors, which could impact how quickly a body could float down river, such as strength of the current and whether there were any obstructions or shoals where the body might get snagged.
“It could probably go two or three miles per day if the current was right,” Danny Moses said.
Danny Moses said emergency officials were relieved that they are able to give the family some degree of closure.
“We are like everyone else. We are sorry that it took so long, but sometimes it takes a long time. You do the best you can do and it still takes a long time,” Danny Moses added.
Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Prewitt, the lead investigator in the case, is continuing the investigation along with Croley’s office.
Numerous local volunteer fire departments assisted with Saturday’s search in addition to Kentucky Regional Emergency Management Director Jerry Rains.