It is beginning to look more and more likely that a body recovered from the Clear Fork River Monday morning is that of a missing Ohio man, who disappeared near the state line earlier this year.
Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell said that officials believe there is a “strong possibility” that the body is that of Randall Alan Walker, 54, who was reported missing at the Kentucky Welcome Center on Jan. 24.
Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley said that the state medical examiner’s office autopsied the body Tuesday, and the results continue to support the theory that the victim is Walker.
The deceased had a medical device implanted in their right side due to a back surgery.
“This is consistent with the gentleman, who has been missing,” Croley noted. “The funnel of information is really narrowing down to the person we suspect, but we have a way to positively, forensically and positively identify the person based on the serial numbers on the medical device. We are doing it now. We have already contacted the company with the numbers to be sure it is this individual. We want to be 110 percent positive.”
Croley said he hopes to know something definitive this week.
The type and brand of some of the clothing and shoes on the deceased is also consistent with what Walker was wearing when he disappeared, Croley said.
Harrell said that a local resident called 911 about 9:19 a.m. Monday to report what he thought was a dead body in the river along US25W about 1.5 miles north of the state line.
“He observed what he thought was a body on a limb just up above the Clear Fork River,” Harrell said.
Woodbine Fire and Rescue and members of South Whitley Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene to help recover the body from the river along with the sheriff’s department, Croley, Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses and Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Area 11 Manager Jerry Rains.
Croley pronounced the victim dead at 11:15 a.m. Monday.
Croley said that the body is definitely that of a man, and that the decomposition of the body is consistent with one that has been in the river since January.
Tuesday’s preliminary autopsy results didn’t shine much new light on how the victim died. Croley said that the cause and manner of death are still pending.
“There was no trauma that was visible, trauma that would cause death,” Croley noted.
Croley said officials still don’t know whether foul play was involved.
Harrell said that the spot in the river where the body was recovered Monday was about two miles from where
Walker was reportedly last seen at the Welcome Center.
Walker was riding with a friend when they stopped at the Kentucky Welcome Center on Jan. 24. He was last seen at 3 a.m., but wasn’t reported missing until about 11 a.m. that morning.
Walker is bi-polar when off his medications, which he left behind in the vehicle he was traveling in along with his cane, according to a Golden Alert that was issued for him.
Whitley County Emergency Director Danny Moses said that he checked restaurants and gas stations in nearby Jellico on Jan. 24, but there was no sign of Walker.
In addition, about 12 – 15 searchers from South Whitley Volunteer Fire Department, Williamsburg Fire and Rescue, and Kentucky Emergency Management searched the grassy area and woods near the rest area but found no evidence that Walker went in the direction towards the river or woods.
A few weeks later, emergency officials returned to the area and searched along I-75 north of the Welcome Center to Exit 11 in Williamsburg, but found no trace of Walker.
Whitley County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Shelley investigated the initial missing person case and will be handling the follow-up investigation along with other members of the sheriff’s department, Harrell said.