By Becky Killian / Managing Editor
A 63-year-old Whitley County man, found dead Wednesday after a three-day search, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley.
An autopsy was performed on Richard “Dick” Martin Thursday in Frankfort, Croley said. Based on evidence found at the site, Croley said Martin probably died Monday.
Martin’s body was found by a search dog team Wednesday roughly three quarters of a mile from his home, according to Whitley County Emergency Management Coordinator Danny Moses.
Rescuers began searching for Martin about 11:30 p.m. Monday after his wife called the Whitley County Sheriff’s Office, saying that Martin had left the house on his all-terrain vehicle after making some self-deprecating comments.
Moses said the first night’s search continued until about 3 a.m., when fog became so thick the effort had to be called off.
Though most of the search took place within a three-mile radius of Martin’s home — where the command center was set up — Moses said that first night he was among a few people who drove up to five miles away from the Martin home travelling forest service roads where they looked for any indications of recent ATV travel.
The search continued for the next two days and involved agencies from Whitley, Knox, Laurel, McCreary and Pulaski counties with about 24 people searching the first night, about 34 Tuesday and about 50 Wednesday. Moses said helicopters from the Kentucky State Police and the National Guard were used Tuesday. On Wednesday, Moses said rescuers focused on a ground search.
ATVs used during the effort logged in about 200 miles as they traveled over a “spiderweb” of trails in the area, Moses said.
On Wednesday, a snuff can was found and it was quickly confirmed the can belonged to Martin by comparing codes printed on the can to other cans left at Martin’s house.
Martin had a cell phone that rescuers periodically called so the phone would send a signal to cell phone towers. Rescuers then used information from Verizon to try to determine possible locations for Martin, Moses said.
While Moses said the signals indicated Martin was moving, it was misleading since evidence found Wednesday points to the likelihood that Martin died Monday.
After Martin was found, Moses said he and the rescuers, most of whom came from volunteer departments, were sad and disappointed, but their professionalism showed.
“I was very proud of all of them,” Moses said. “They showed real respect when they came back to the (Martin) house.”
Despite the sometimes rugged terrain covered by rescuers, none were injured during the search.
“We were very lucky,” Moses said.
Fire departments involved included Oak Grove, Woodbine, Williamsburg and Bald Rock.
While they helped with the search, some of the fire departments also had to respond to daily calls.
Moses said volunteers, who searched up to 14 hours each day, were helped by people who provided food for them. They included Whitley County Judge/Executive Pat White, who supplied hot dogs, and Jailer Ken Mobley, who provided a grill to use to cook them. Neighbors also provided coffee and some churches had pledged to bring food if the search continued into a fourth day.
Croley also commended the searchers, saying it is an indication of the care the community has for others.
Autopsy suggests missing 63-year-old probably died Monday following gunshot
By Becky Killian / Managing Editor
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