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Nashville surgeon still missing
New evidence revealed
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Sheriff Ray and Officer Luper - photo by Photo by Reed Vanderpool
Dr. William Coltharp, the Nashville heart surgeon who disappeared in the Hurricane bridge area of Center Hill Lake on Oct. 2, has yet to be found.In a Monday press conference, it was revealed that an empty gun case was found near the boat ramp on Monday, Oct. 3.According to DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray, serial numbers on the gun case matched a missing pistol verified as belonging to Coltharp.Additionally, it was reported that a witness saw a man loading a cylindrical concrete block onto a kayak late on the Sunday afternoon the doctor disappeared.Ray stressed that the doctor is still considered to be a missing person and foul play is not suspected in the case.According to official reports, Dr. Coltharp left his Nashville residence around 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, on his way to Center Hill Lake to kayak, an activity his wife confirmed was a regular occurrence.Dr. Coltharp was seen by two independent witnesses when he arrived at at the Hurricane boat ramp by himself around 6 p.m. that Sunday.The doctor’s presence in the area was also confirmed by cell-tower signals indicating the use of his cell phone in the area, according to Ray.The last reported sighting of Dr. Coltharp was on the west side of Hurricane Bridge on the lake, according to officials.The doctor’s wife reportedly became concerned when her husband didn’t return home and left for Center Hill sometime after midnight, by then Oct. 3.On her way, Mrs. Coltharp contacted law enforcement officials about her missing husband and was directed to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) dispatch center.TWRA officer Nick Luper reported that the doctor’s wife talked to an agency officer and subsequently found her husband’s vehicle, a 1999 white Chevy Suburban, in the Hurricane boat ramp parking lot.Ray said DeKalb Central Dispatch was notified by TWRA of the disappearance at 1:22 a.m., Oct. 3, with deputies arriving on the scene at 1:44 a.m.The search for the missing doctor began around 2:30 that morning with an upside-down kayak, believed to be Coltharp's, found around 5 a.m. about one mile from the boat ramp.Officials said the recovered kayak contained a life jacket and an Apple MacBook laptop, found in the kayak’s storage box. A paddle was found further downstream.The sheriff reported that the laptop computer, found soaked in water, was sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab for possible information retrieval.At about 9:40 the same morning a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted worker found the empty gun case near the boat ramp when he was changing out garbage trash bags.The circumstances of Coltharp’s disappearance still remain a mystery with officials unwilling to speculate on the nature of the doctor’s disappearance until he is found.Monday’s press conference concluded with the sheriff reading a prepared statement from the doctor’s family:"The Coltharp family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the search and rescue efforts led by the Smithville/DeKalb County Rescue Squad to locate Will Coltharp."The Smithville/DeKalb County Rescue Squad, led by Director Gerald Bailiff, has requested and received assistance from Coffee, Cannon, Jackson, Warren, and White counties, the City of Smyrna, the United Auto Workers of Nashville, members of the Bloodhound Search and Rescue Group, the Nashville Office of Emergency Management, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency."Furthermore, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has been here every day and actively worked in the search."Finally, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, led by Sheriff Patrick Ray, has worked in an extraordinary and professional manner to keep us up to date."We very much appreciate the efforts of St. Thomas Hospital, Nashville residents, local merchants, friends and concerned people who provided food and coffee to the volunteers and family."The efforts of everyone in the community, to support us in the search, will be a memory remembered by all of us,” the statement concluded.