BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Authorities say an aerial search of Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri didn't find a missing Big Rapids man whose car was discovered in the remote area -- and there is little else providing any clue to his whereabouts.
Fred Byrne, 49, has been missing since Feb. 12 when he dropped off his son at Hope College in Holland (Mich.). After visiting his mother, he told her he was going to RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville.
Byrne's Chevy Malibu was found Feb. 14 parked along a forest service road near Van Buren, Mo., which is about 160 miles southwest of St. Louis and 560 miles from where he was last seen in Michigan.
Big Rapids investigators said Byrne's wallet and keys were in the car, along with about $4 in the center console.
The car is now back in the possession of Byrne's wife after being processed by Michigan authorities, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Det. Brian Miller told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.
"The vehicle was brought back here on Sunday. The Michigan State Police Grand Rapids Crime Laboratory did process the vehicle and did obtain some evidence from inside the car. They are in the process of examining those," said Miller.
But, Miller said, he is not at liberty to share what that evidence contains.
Big Rapids police have executed search warrants into the Byrnes' finances and medical records, and they have the home computer. But so far, there have been no promising leads.
Investigators have also looked at hours of surveillance video from stores at RiverTown Crossings Mall, but have seen neither hide nor hair of Byrnes.
"We have reviewed video numerous times along with family members and we can't confirm the fact that he ever made it there," said Miller.
They interviewed Byrne's wife, Diana, but not close friends
"He really had no friends, technically speaking. Maybe associates, but no one really close," said Miller.
Miller is among those associates. He knows Byrne from a leadership conference the two attended.
Sheriff Richard Stephans of Carter County, Mo. told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday his agency has searched with three separate police K-9 units on foot and by helicopter for the last five days.
Both Stephans and Miller described the situation as bizarre.
Miller knows that as the hours go by, his odds of finding Byrne alive decline. He hopes now for one tip or one lead or the discovery that the answer is already in his hands.
"Anything is possible. You just hope that you are as thorough as possible so that nothing has a chance to slip by," he said.
More efforts are planned by authorities in Missouri to find Byrne or uncover leads.
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