Valdosta Daily Times

April 24, 2013

River search ends

Missing teen believed to be alive

By Dean Poling and Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

-- — Authorities called off a river search Tuesday afternoon after concluding the Hahira teenager, whom they had believed to be lost beneath the waters, is alive, said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine.

A confidential informant reported speaking to the missing teen both Monday night and Tuesday morning, Prine said. The sheriff would not disclose the informant’s relationship with the missing teen but said the source is reliable and credible.

The case began approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday when a fisherman noticed clothing on the banks of the Little River at the Lowndes-Brooks county line off Morven Road. Investigating, the fisherman discovered a typed note which had reportedly been written by Nathaniel Wilkins, a 19-year-old Valdosta State University student from Hahira, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

Family members reported last seeing Wilkins, whom relatives and friends call Nathan, on Thursday, April 18, as they dropped him off to attend classes at VSU.

Prine said the clothing and note were dry, which seemed strange given the rainfall of Monday morning. The note claimed to be from the missing teen; its tone distraught, claiming love for family, and an intention to end it all, the sheriff said.

Based on the fisherman’s discovery, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, Brooks County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources began searching the river, with boats, a dozen divers, and sonar equipment.

Meanwhile, authorities also searched the woods along the river and interviewed Wilkins’ family and friends.

The search lasted from about 5-8:15 p.m. Monday and continued Tuesday morning.

As authorities spoke with the informant Tuesday afternoon, Prine said they believe someone placed the clothing and note at the scene.

Though discontinuing the river search, authorities continued Tuesday evening searching for Wilkins’ whereabouts.

Anyone with information about Nathaniel Wilkins is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office, (229) 671-2950; anonymous tips may be placed at (229) 671-2985; or online at www.lowndessheriff.com