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HILLSVILLE — Police now characterize the death of a 54-year-old Woodlawn man as the result of a farm accident, according to Sheriff J.B. Gardner.
A search began for Claude Gardner (no relation to the sheriff) after family members reported him missing June 5. The search was called off after midnight due to bad weather to resume the next morning.
But family members found Gardner’s body in a creek on his farm, about a quarter-mile from his home on Woodlawn Road at about 7 a.m. on June 6, before the searchers returned.
Deputies requested an autopsy from the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke to find the cause of death.
Last Thursday, the sheriff said the results show that Gardner had been involved in an accident, possibly with a large animal.
Gardner died due to internal injuries to the chest, the sheriff said. Whether one of the farmer’s cattle charged and head-butted the man or used its hooves, or something else happened to cause those injuries, is a matter of speculation without having any witnesses to the incident.
Family members notified authorities on June 5, after they had not seen Gardner for hours, even though he had planned to get together with his mother that evening, the sheriff said. “They were going to pick berries.”
As this was unusual, family members got worried and called the authorities.
During their investigation, deputies “found no obvious evidence of trauma,” but the autopsy revealed the internal injuries, the sheriff said.
Authorities felt it necessary to investigate the matter due to the circumstances of Gardner going missing and where he was found. Investigations are common in unattended death cases.