Missing man seen on camera

November 7, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

A Scioto County man who has been reported missing since Sept. 24, has been spotted on a surveillance camera, and now is presumed to be alive. The man, whose abandoned car was found on private property on Scherer’s Hollow Road in October, is James Laack, 35, of Swauger Valley, who left his job at Taylor Lumber midway through the day on Sept. 4, and has not been seen since.

An Ohio State Highway Patrol helicopter circled overhead again and again on Wednesday morning, utilizing a Flir Infrared camera, in an attempt to locate Laack in one of the areas around the same property where his car was found.

“Those Flir units really work,” Scioto County Sheriff’s Captain David Hall said. “We also had our own Flir camera on the ground. If he had been up there, we would have found him.”

The search intensified Wednesday because of something discovered days before.

“We got word that they had deer cameras up here, and we never knew that during all of this until two days ago,” Detective Sergeant Dan Malone said. “Yesterday (Tuesday), I received emails from the person that has the deer camera, and we reviewed the photos. We took them to the family members, and they confirmed that that is James Laack. The photos were actually taken on the deer camera, 15 days prior to the 5th of this month, around Oct. 25. Today, were just up here to see if we can see anything different, and see if anything has changed, and we hope to find James Laack for the family.”

On the video, Laack is seen one time cutting a piece off of a salt block, and he was wearing two different sets of clothing on two different occasions. Detectives Paul Blaine and Denver Triggs, and two other people, joined Malone in the ground search while Hall watched from above.

The reason searching is difficult is because of the rough terrain and miles of dirt roads that wind in multiple directions, and with deep ravines with overgrown brush and trees. Recently, a dog rescue team was brought in and three dogs hit on one spot. It was that spot searchers began their search.

Authorities said there are several abandoned houses in the area including one at the foot of Dorman Drive, which looked as if someone had created a makeshift ladder to get into the attic.

The property owner first located the vehicle, found identification and called around and tried to locate the proper authority to report it. Humble’s grandfather, Carl Laack, said the car he was driving belongs to his (James Laack) father.

“He had no money. He had access to a bank account that had plenty of money in it,” his friend, Matt Humble said. “He had a paycheck that he never picked up. He has no money on him at all. His wallet and everything was found in the car.”

With the knowledge that Laack is 35-years-old, and has been seen alive recently, at what point do law enforcement officers cease devoting manpower and resources to the situation?

“We’re close to that point now,” Hall said. “I think at this point we’ve done everything that we can to make sure he’s not deceased laying up there somewhere. We feel pretty confident he’s not. We had to take that one last shot, especially if you have a mental disorder, and that’s not what we have seen on the deer camera.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com