http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/10/1687353/missing-man-mystery.htmlMissing man mysteryPolice agencies failed to connect the dots in bizarre crash-missing person case
Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 By JOEY HOLLEMAN
Two separate storylines incredibly didn’t cross for nearly two months, as one law enforcement agency closed out its investigation of a one-car accident in which the bloodied driver apparently left on foot and another agency searched high and low for a missing person.
Only when someone at an auto salvage yard began looking for the owner of a wrecked car nearly two months later did the two agencies discover their oversight. The missing Batesburg-Leesville man and the man in the wreck in Fairfield County likely were one and the same.
The extended family of William Ira Pound Jr. can’t understand how this could have happened. Why did the S.C. Highway Patrol not contact the Pound family after his bloody car was found flipped on Nov. 30 on Old River Road in Fairfield County? Why did the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department not find the accident report after the family reported Pound missing 11 days after the wreck? And most importantly, by some miracle, could Pound still be alive somewhere?
Tears flow down Daryl Pound's face as he talks about his father William Ira Pound Jr, who has been missing for two months. "We just want to find him," he said.
Law enforcement officials have staged searches several times in the past week near the wreck site. Another search is planned for Saturday.
“The what-ifs are killing me,” said Pound’s daughter Aimee Davis, who lives in Charlotte. “I just can’t see how this happened, and I don’t want this to happen to another family.”
Mark Keel, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety, understands the family’s frustration and pledges to make changes that could prevent this kind of situation.
“It’s the first situation we’ve had like this in the 31/2 years I’ve been here,” Keel said. “It’s more than unfortunate that it happened, and we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Highway Patrol officials already have begun working on standardizing the effort troopers need to be making to contact the owners of abandoned wrecked vehicles. In the past, some troopers called the vehicle owner and left phone messages, and some sent letters through the mail. In this case, no effort was made to contact the owner of the vehicle or the family, Keel said.
The agency also plans to contact county and municipal law enforcement agencies and encourage them to search the Highway Patrol’s Computer Aided Dispatch system when doing a missing persons search. And the names of the owners of any abandoned wrecked vehicle will be sent to the Missing Persons Information Center at SLED, Keel said.
The Highway Patrol deals with hundreds of cases each year in which drivers leave the scene of an accident, Keel said. Some might be injured and catch a ride to a hospital. Some might have a reason to run. Often, the vehicle has been stolen or the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Keel said he was satisfied with the effort K.W. Lazar, the trooper who worked the accident, made to find the car’s driver at the scene. Lazar and an EMS worker searched the immediate area on foot. The trooper also spent nearly 21/2 hours driving nearby roads and stopped at the nearest business, a convenience store at U.S. 21 and Old River Road, to check if anyone had wandered up there.
A phone tip that a man had been seen on a nearby road with a towel held to his head also was investigated, but that man never was located.
“He made a diligent effort, but it’s never enough for somebody who’s got a loved one who needs to be found,” Keel said.
Family members last heard from Pound on Nov. 29, when he talked with his mother. She asked him to pick up some toiletries and bring them to her Fairfield County retirement home. He showed up on the surveillance camera at a Lexington Walgreens at about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 30, apparently buying those toiletries.
At about 4 a.m., Pound’s Volkswagen Beetle ran off the road on a curve on Old River Road and flipped in Fairfield County just off I-77. The Highway Patrol received a call about the accident at 4:47 a.m., and Lazar arrived at the wreck site at 5:15 a.m., according to the incident report.
The trooper checked the vehicle’s registration to see if it had been reported stolen, Keel said. A wrecker was called to clear the car from the side of the road. The registration search indicated the car belonged to Pound, but the Highway Patrol never tried to contact him.
Pound, 54, lived by himself in Batesburg-Leesville. If they had contacted his family, officers would have found he had a history of drinking problems but seemed to be getting a handle on that devil. He kept in near daily contact by phone with several family members. When nobody heard from him for several days, the initial suspicion was that he might be off on a bender.
When days turned into a week, family members contacted Lexington County authorities on Dec. 8. They were told there’s a wait of 48 hours after someone is reported missing before an official missing person report can be filed. The missing person report was filed on Dec. 11.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department sent the information to the local media. Deputies went through Pound’s phone records, checked his home computer and examined the Walgreens surveillance video. They used helicopters to search the route between Pound’s home and his mother’s retirement home. They sent divers into a Lake Murray cove near Pound’s home.
Officers entered Pound’s name and the Volkswagen Beetle’s identification information into the National Crime Incident Computer system on Dec. 11. Realizing some records roll off the NCIC database after 10 days, officers on Dec. 15 asked the FBI to a special check of the NCIC records back to Nov. 29. Nothing about the Fairfield County wreck showed up, according to Maj. John Allard, spokesman for the office.
But somewhere in the missing person case search process, two letters in the Volkswagen’s license plate had been transposed. So the Highway Patrol’s check of the license plate on Nov. 30 didn’t show up on the search. Allard said it’s not clear yet how or when the numbers were transposed.
Sometime in late January, somebody at Eddie’s Auto Clinic was trying to determine what to do with the wrecked Beetle. A computer search of the actual license plate number indicated it matched the vehicle of a man in a missing person report. The clinic notified authorities.
Searchers returned to the crash site on Feb. 2 and 3. The Pound family said they were notified about the wreck on Feb. 3 and met that afternoon with Highway Patrol officials.
Another full-scale search is planned for Saturday. The family is realistic. It’s extremely unlikely Pound wandered off, survived and hasn’t contacted anyone for two months. But they’re holding out a glimmer of hope.
“Maybe someone else will come forward who saw him,” Davis said.
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Nov. 29: William Ira Pound Jr. speaks with his mother by phone and promises to pick up items and bring them to her nursing home in Fairfield County.
2:30 a.m. Nov. 30: Pound is seen on a surveillance video at a Lexington Walgreens picking up toiletries.
4-5 a.m. Nov. 30: S.C. Highway Patrol responds to a report of a one-car accident along Old River Road near I-77 in Fairfield County; for several hours, an officer searches the area for the driver.
Dec. 8: Family members, who had not heard from Pound, report him missing.
Dec. 11: A missing person report is filed; Lexington County Sheriff’s Department investigates.
Dec. 15: SLED is asked to further check the information on Pound with a national crime database; no match is found because numbers of the license plate were transposed in the database search.
Dec. 28: Lexington County sheriff’s deputies conduct a search around Pound’s home and the route to the nursing home.
Late January: A worker from a Ridgeway salvage yard notifies authorities that the owner of the wrecked car matches the name of a missing man.
Feb. 3: Pound’s family members are informed that the car had been in a wreck reported on Nov. 30.