Missing man found dead in creek near Flora home

Neighbors joined officers in looking for 70-year-old resident who suffered from diabetes and Alzheimer's

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 9, 2008 - A lengthy search for a diabetic Alzheimer's patient came to an abrupt end Thursday morning when the 70-year-old Flora resident was found dead in the woods within a mile of his FM 69 north residence.

The community-wide search was launched Wednesday evening over approximately a 3,000 acre area surrounding Raymond Leroy after Pottorf's daughter reported him missing.

"He was found in a creek," said Hopkins County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rickey Morgan. "He'd apparently driven the four-wheeler in and was trying to get it out, and had sat down. That's where he passed away."

Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup was contacted to fill out a death report. An autopsy is expected to be ordered, as is standard procedure in unattended deaths.

Sheriff's deputies were notified around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday by Pottorf's daughter that the 70-year-old man had not been seen since around noon, when he left his home on a red Yamaha Grizzly four-wheeler. Family members were already looking for him, but as of 4:27 p.m. Wednesday they'd had no luck.

Sheriff Butch Adams summoned all available officers, including off-duty deputies, and made locating Pottorf a top priority due to the elderly man's "threatening medical conditions."

By 5:30 p.m., the search was in full force, with the sheriff's officers joined by the Sheriff's Posse, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter crew out of Garland, and Pottorf's family, friends, neighbors and others. Volunteer firefighters from the surrounding area, Hopkins County Emergency Medical Services personnel and Hopkins County Salvation Army members were also on standby at the scene, according to Morgan.

Morgan and investigator Jace Anglin flew over the area in the chief deputy's airplane Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, while Sheriff's Posse member Bill Allan also flew his plane over the area Thursday morning. On the ground, people walked, rode horses and drove four-wheelers to scour the area looking for Pottorf.

Loggers working in the area reported seeing him northwest of the house on the red four-wheeler in the early afternoon, around lunch time.

Search efforts were hampered by dense foliage on Pottorf's and surrounding properties, but crews still scoured the area as best they could in the waning light Wednesday. When the DPS helicopter arrived, all searchers vacated the woods to allow the pilot to use a thermal imager to try to locate Pottorf. But it quickly became apparent the woods were just too thick for the device to be effective, and the search parties re-entered the woods for another sweep of the area.

A Region 1 bulletin with the man's description was put out by communications operators around 9 p.m. to alert area law enforcement agencies to be on the look out for the elderly missing man.

The search was eventually halted around 11 p.m. Wednesday due to limited visibility, but resumed around 6:30 this morning.

In addition to the two airplanes searching by air, officers, Posse members and volunteers began a "line search," lining up to cover a large area of ground, walking first one direction then another.

Adams also had communications operators Thursday morning issue a "silver alert" -- similar to an Amber alert -- for Texas residents 65 and older who "have a diagnosed impaired mental condition" and whose health and safety are threatened by the disappearance. The State Operation Center of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management broadcast the silver alert over a 200-mile area from Pottorf's home.

Communications operators were in the process of having the man's information entered into the National Missing Person's database when he was found by a citizen at 9:10 a.m. this morning.

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