Missing person case now a criminal investigation

Justin Johnson

Justin Johnson

Authorities have suspended the search for a Vanceburg man that was last seen at his home Thursday evening but are continuing to seek information on what may have happened to him.
“We are suspending the search at this time and turning the matter over to Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens who is now investigating the matter as a criminal case,” said Lewis County Emergency Management Director George Sparks.
Sparks added the search would resume if new information surfaces.
Sheriff Bivens says Justin Johnson, 28, was last seen about 8:00 p.m. Thursday at his home on Town Branch Road in Vanceburg.
He said Johnson’s red Chevrolet S-10 pick-up was found on Lower Twin Branch off McDowell Creek Road, south of Garrison, about 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Bivens said his office was contacted Friday by concerned family members after Johnson failed to return home when he said he would on Thursday night.
Search dog teams scoured the immediate area Saturday and Sunday. Teams returned to Monday and expanded the area of concentration utilizing information collected from Johnson’s cell phone records.
Volunteers also searched the area on foot and on horseback but were unable to collect any information that indicated Johnson had been there.
Bivens said he and his department have been involved in the case since he first heard about Johnson’s possible disappearance early Friday.
Bivens said he and his department are following up several leads and utilizing telephone record data to question anyone who has had any contact with Johnson over the past several days.

Sheriff Johnny Bivens marks the location of a pick-up truck that was recovered on Lower Twin Branch Road. - Dennis Brown Photo

Sheriff Johnny Bivens marks the location of a pick-up truck that was recovered on Lower Twin Branch Road. – Dennis Brown Photo

Bivens says he is hoping to have a helicopter in the area Tuesday to survey the scene and the surrounding area by air.
“I would like to be certain there isn’t something we are overlooking there,” he said.
He had tried to get a helicopter to aid in the search over the weekend and on Monday but weather hampered those efforts.
“We will continue to beat the bushes to find out what happened to Mr. Johnson,” Bivens said. “I am committed to getting the answer and closing this case as soon as possible.”
Bivens added he and his deputies have been questioning Johnson’s friends and acquaintances in working to collect as much information as possible that could help point to anything that may have happened leading up to his disappearance.
Lewis County Judge Executive Todd Ruckel has worked closely with the search teams as well as with the other local officials since he learned Johnson had been reported missing.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and we continue to hope for a favorable outcome,” Ruckel said.
Johnson is 6’2″ tall, 145 pounds with a slender build. He has short brown hair and hadn’t shaved for a few days.
He was last seen wearing a black tee-shirt, light blue jeans, dark brown work boots, a camo cap and had a black jacket with him.
“Any information at all, no matter what it is, could be the information we need to solve this case,” Bivens said.
Anyone who may have any information that may be helpful in determining what may have occurred is urged to call the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 606-796-2912.
Bivens said callers may remain anonymous and all information will be treated confidentially.

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