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FRIES — Local police coordinated a search with a Virginia State Police helicopter on Wednesday in the continuing effort to find a missing Fries woman.
Carroll Sheriff J.B. Gardner and Investigator Donnie Spangler said the helicopter flew over Fries and adjacent areas, including around Byllesby dam and Meadows of Dan up to the U.S. 58 bridge in order to search for Desia Rae George, a mother of four who has been missing since April 15.
Carroll County Search and Rescue, Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries conservation officers and New River State Park rangers, as well as community members that searched last Saturday, have also been cooperating with Carroll deputies on the search.
Law enforcement officers continue to follow up on tips from the public.
“Right now, we’ve gone everywhere that makes sense, but she’s out there somewhere,” Gardner said. “We’re still looking for a lead that anyone can give us.”
• Anyone with information that may help in this case is asked to contact the Carroll Sheriff’s Department at (276) 728-4146. The official “Find Desia Rae George” Facebook page is at facebook.com/find.desiaraegeorge/.
FRIES — Ever since word of Fries resident Desia Rae George’s disappearance, family and friends have worked diligently to share Facebook posts and prayer requests, anticipating a safe return for the mother of four.
Their efforts continued on Saturday morning, when a group of 85 gathered in Fries to search for her themselves.
Last seen on April 15, George’s disappearance quickly rallied her friends and family, who immediately began circulating her photo on social media, in newspapers and on TV.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office released several statements to quell rumors surrounding her disappearance. Early on, George’s boyfriend, Matt Jones, and their two-month-old daughter, were believed to be missing as well, but police confirmed that Jones and all four of George’s children have been accounted for.
Jones was reportedly located in North Carolina with the two-month-old.
Spartan Agency Private Investigator David Sandefur began working on the case for the family on April 18. Since then, he said, it’s been a non-stop effort.
Sandefur organized the search effort that morning to help the police department and involve the hundreds of concerned friends and family members who have voiced their deep concerns over the past week.
He announced the search to the public using a page on Facebook that he aptly named "Find Desia Rae George."
The limited information from authorities and unconfirmed rumors have led to frustration. “Social media is wonderful, but it can also be a bane,” Sandefur said. “Facebook was really blowing up with outrageous rumors, so with permission of the family, I started the page and organized it to create a central place for everyone to post information to find out what is going on.”
As of Sunday, the friend count for the page had nearly reached 800.
After meeting with the Carroll County and Grayson County sheriff’s departments on April 19, Sandefur said that he and the police came up with a way to get the public involved in a proactive manner. “The public is driving this effort. People wanted to search... they wanted to do something,” Sandefur said on Saturday. “We’ll do this in such a way that it benefits law enforcement investigators, as well as making sure we are taking steps not to hinder it,” he said.
Sandefur said the sheriffs’ departments are busy narrowing down all possible areas that may contain further evidence of George’s whereabouts. “At this point, there is no specific evidence pointing towards any particular area over another. There are more likely areas than others... so it’s a needle in a haystack, or a needle in a field of haystacks,” he told The Gazette.
Sandefur narrowed down several places for search parties to scour throughout the day on Saturday “We will work the [New River] trail... we will have mobile teams between here and Riverside, and Riverside and [U.S.] 58. We will have a team on the riverbank itself. We’ve sent two teams to Clito, as a combination mobile and walking search.”
As he spoke on Saturday, the lists were filling fast with volunteers. Car after car pulled in, and the sign-in table was completely surrounded within minutes.
Wendy Harris, a close friend of George, was the first to arrive almost half an hour before the scheduled 9 a.m. assembly. “I’ve known her since I was 12 or 13 years old... and I know her enough to know that she would never leave her children like this,” Harris said. “This whole thing just makes me sick.”
Pulling in behind Harris, George’s aunt walked towards the crowd that was forming. “I heard that [before she disappeared], she went to the medical center in Forsyth,” she said. “I know that she had the baby, and then something happened after that.”
Meanwhile, as members of the community rally to do their part, Carroll and Grayson investigators and the Virginia State Police are working the case.
Prior to Saturday’s search, Sandefur confirmed that the Carroll Sheriff’s Department and other agencies conducted a thorough search of George’s residence.
Sandefur said the investigation has determined that "some incident occurred at the residence" on the day George was reported missing last week.
At this point, police are looking at the case as a person missing under suspicious circumstances, and as possible foul play.
Sandefur said several people had already been questioned.
On Monday, Sandefur reported that searchers found items of interest on Saturday, but none of them turned out as a definite lead. “However, several people came forward and provided additional information,” he said.
As for future searches, “the sheriff’s department has a lot of wonderful resources, but I’m sure they would not be averse to another organization [helping] and will work directly with volunteers like we’re doing today,” Sandefur said.
“At this point, we have a lady missing. A mother of four,” he said. “Any information that the public can provide is absolutely imperative."