The search for a Wheeling, West Virginia man who went missing Monday night at the Grayson Lake Marina continued Wednesday as volunteers from Carter, Boyd and Wolfe Counties combed the area looking for signs of 62 year-old Richard Lea.
Lea, who suffers from frontal lobe dementia, can speak but is mostly non-verbal, his family said. He was last seen wearing a camouflage hat, tan shirt and blue shorts, but his family said he might have taken some of the clothing off. His daughter, Katie Harsh, also of Wheeling, said that he sometimes removes clothing, such as when washing up or using the restroom, and doesn't always get dressed again afterward and leaves the clothing where they lay. In addition to keeping an eye out for her father, she would like for people who may be driving in areas around Grayson Lake to make note if they see an article of his clothing along the roadway and to dial 911 and report it immediately.
"His body is still very healthy," said Leslie Lea, his wife. "Monday, he was capable of getting some distance in."
Lea explained that her husband's dementia is a progressive disease that it has steadily gotten worse since they first diagnosed it four years ago. Richard, a former aircraft mechanic, can swim and enjoyed the boat but has not been fond of getting in the water since his dementia progressed. His family was not worried about him going into the water for this reason, and sonar searches of the area around the marina seemed to confirm that he had not gone into the lake.
Leslie Lea said that her husband was a regular walker and paced, something she believed became habit from walking from the toolbox to a project or back-and-forth across an airplane hangar while working. It is a motion that is automatic and comfortable to him, and he had developed a route he would pace around the marina grounds area after getting off their son's boat.
After getting off the boat on Monday, she said, they had walked up the hill to the playground area with their three grandchildren were. There he had started pacing when they told him to come back and he didn't stop. She saw him walking toward the restrooms and lost sight of him there. She then sent their son into the restroom to check on him, but he was not there. She said no more than 10 minutes had passed from the time she lost sight of him and when they discovered he was missing. The family was able to immediately notify a parks office and commence the search for Richard. Leslie said on Wednesday morning that she had been told search dogs spotted his scent moving toward the roadway and the dam. Though it is possible the scent could have been transferred there by ATVs involved in the search, she said he had been corralled from moving toward the roadway on earlier occasions by their son. Because of this she believes he could have gone that way, rather than into the woods.
"He's going to take the path of least resistance," she said. For her this means roadways or walking trails.
Though Richard Lea was still in good shape, Leslie said she believes at this point he may have found a spot to sit down and wait. He hasn't had any food or water since Monday at 3 p.m. Though it's possible he got into a car with someone, she doesn't think that is likely to have happened either. He wouldn't ask for help or wave a car down, she said, and if someone were to stop and ask if he needed help, he wouldn't answer. The possible exception, she said, might be if it was a white SUV like the vehicle she drives. In that case he might not speak, but he still might respond and get in if asked to.
If he has made it as far as Grayson, or to someone's home, he might sit on their front porch. His family implored anyone who might find him to "please be kind," and to contact the authorities right away.