Last updated: July 24. 2013 1:58PM - 249 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Zeeke, the search and rescue dog suddenly alerted, turned and charged up the ridge on private property on Scherer’s Hollow Road in Portsmouth on a brisk Wednesday morning. Zeeke is one of the search dogs from Buckeye Search and Rescue Dogs, out of Loveland, Ohio, called in to look for a missing Scioto County man.

According to the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, James Laack, 35, of Swauger Valley, has been missing for two weeks and his car was located late last week on the property about 1 1/2 miles up a dirt and rock road that is being worked for future use by the owner.

“He (Zeeke) will follow the trail as far as he can, and if he runs out of scent or he tires out, we have other dogs to bring up,” Gloria Napier of Buckeye Search and Rescue Dogs said. “There are so many roads up here and it’s such a large area to cover.”

At around 3:30 p.m. lead investigator Detective Dan Malone said they were calling off the search for the day, but that three search dogs had hit on the same area at the top of the ridge, an area he said overlooks Mabert Road.

“The search and rescue people are going to do a Google search and through their GPS system they will be able to pinpoint where the dogs started and where they ended,” Malone said. “I’m going to use that system and get permission to go on that property on Mabert Road and try to go up from that side to see if I can see anything.”

The Sheriff’s Office has pulled all resources together to work on locating the missing man.

“We had this planned for yesterday (Tuesday),” Scioto County Sheriff’s Captain David Hall said. “We had the dogs coming down, and we had a helicopter, but they moved it to today because the weather was bad for a flyover because of the overhead ceiling. We’re bringing in a helicopter or plane from the Ohio State Patrol to fly over the area to see if they can pick up anything from the air. It’s pretty dense up there so it may be a little difficult. That’s why we’re using dogs.”

Zeeke the search dog began his trek for the day at the site where the car was located. He and his handlers, Keitha Meyer and Ed Jagoddinski, then started up the ridge above the deeply wooded ravines. At the same time, the property owner worked on an area of the road with heavy equipment. Much of the road around where the car was located had been covered by several layers of dirt since the car was removed and taken to the Sheriff’s Office.

The lead detective on the case Dan Malone walked the rocky road up the property along with the search crew and explained as he went that the car had been stuck in the mud and it looks as if he was unable to get it out. Malone said five days after Laack was first reported missing he purchased a bottle of vodka at Walmart. He was seen on the security video and appeared to be alone, though the video showed he sat in his car for 45 minutes before entering the store.”

“He went to work (at Taylor Lumber) on that Monday (Sept. 24) and at lunch break, he just took off,” his grandfather Carl Laack said. “They thought he was going out for lunch, which was very unusual, because he never did, and he took off and nobody has seen him since.”

Adding to the unusual behavior, Laack was without any money.

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

The search will continue today.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com

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