By Jesse Wood
The search for James “Martin” Roberts, a 19-year-old Caldwell Community College student, continues. Roberts, who is from Kernersville, was last seen at about noon on April 21 near the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of App State.
In the past two days, authorities searched Trout Lake and the Town of Boone’s reservoir on Winkler’s Creek. His body was not found at these areas. Roberts enjoyed hiking, camping and spending time along the Blue Ridge Parkway and these places were known to be hangout spots of Roberts. Days after he disappeared, the Boone Police Department said that he was possibly sighted in the Trout Lake area.
“He enjoyed these areas. So yeah, we are checking where he’s been in the past,” Boone Police Department spokesman Shane Robbins said, adding that “there’s no smoking gun” leading investigators to search in the particular bodies of water.
In recent searches, the Boone Police Department received assistance from the North Catawba Fire and Rescue, which provided sonar equipment, and Lisa Briggs, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, who provided cadaver dogs.
“(There are) those very faint gases through decomposition,” Briggs told WSOC-TV. “Even if the body is deep in the water, the gases are still going to surface.”
Aside from ongoing searches in the wilderness, investigators have interviewed relatives, friends and acquaintances. They’ve studied surveillance videos and inspected electronic communications. Two weeks after his disappearance, High Country Crime Stoppers issued a $1,000 cash reward for information leading to the whereabouts and safe return of the young man.
More than one week ago, Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford penned an open letter to the public. In the letter, Crawford noted that there are “periods of time where Martin’s whereabouts cannot be accounted for by his friends and roommates.”
“This has led us to believe that there is a person in this community who has knowledge of Martin Roberts, but who may be hesitant to come forward. This person would have spent time with Martin during the weeks prior to Martin’s disappearance,” Crawford wrote, asking for this person to step forward and speak with investigators.
But Roberts is still nowhere to be found.
A “Help Find Martin Roberts” Facebook page exists. Friends post memories and photos of Roberts. Many of the articles and newspaper stories about Roberts’ disappearance are compiled on this page. Unsurprisingly, Roberts’ father, John, is the most active on the message board.
John’s birthday was yesterday, and, of course, the best birthday present of all would be the safe return of his son.
As stories of the recent lake searches, which came up empty – except to strike out possibilities – circulated online, John remained hopeful. He noted that the water searches had to happen at some point.
“Bottom line, no trace of James Martin Roberts found. Not bad news but we still don’t have any answers as to where he is,” his father wrote. “Hope to hear from him soon!”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Boone Police Department at 828-268-6900 or High Country Crime Stoppers at 828-268-6959 / 828-737-0125. You may also submit a Crime Stoppers Tip or text “NCTIP plus your tip” to 274637 (CRIMES).
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