CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. -- The terrain is muddy, uneven, and full of tall weeds and trees. But that doesn’t stop family and friends of a missing Catawba County man from searching from dawn to dusk for him.
For the third straight day, they searched the grounds of the sawmill where Ken Mohler was last heard from Thursday night.
"It's just a horrible dream, just don't know what to think," said Mohler’s son Kenny, who flew in from Pennsylvania Saturday night to join the search.
Mohler, 70, fixed a water leak at Gregory Wood Products off Rocky Ford Road near Hickory-Lincolnton Highway Thursday, and had just called his boss to tell him water was restored to the building. Mohler’s family said his boss got that call at 8:05 p.m.
Mohler also texted his wife to say he’d be home around 8:30. He never showed up, and his truck was still parked at the sawmill Friday morning.
His family knew something was wrong.
"If he said he was going to be home in an hour, it wasn't going to be an hour and two minutes, it was an hour or less," said Kenny.
Mohler was reported missing Friday, and Catawba County Sheriff’s investigators searched the area around Gregory Wood Products all day.
His sister-in-law Tammy Pettry said deputies told the family that it looked like there had been a scuffle near Mohler’s truck. His cell phone and keys were on the ground covered in dirt, and his glasses were in the bed of his truck.
Kenny said his father couldn’t see without his glasses and wouldn’t have left without them.
Pettry said deputies told her Mohler may have walked up on a burglary in progress. Three motors that had been stored inside the building were found outside.
"One of the police officers said, Ken was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Pettry.
She said Mohler wouldn’t just walk away from his family – included the four-year-old granddaughter he just got legal custody of.
"If he's out there -- which I know he is -- he's living for Lilly, his granddaughter,” said Pettry. “I know that's what's keeping him strong."
Dozens of people have now joined the search for Mohler, and not just at the sawmill. Pettry said they have passed out more than a thousand flyers around Catawba County.
Kenny got emotional as he talked about what he was most worried about: “Finding him... one way or the other,” he said.
Anyone who was in the area near the sawmill or around Rocky Ford Road Thursday night and may have seen something should call the Catawba County Sheriff’s Dept. at 828-464-5241.