View Full Version : Hikers missing near Spivey Gap

05-09-2008, 16:49
From: Johnson City Press.com http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Detail.php?Cat=HOMEPAGE&ID=62873

By Jim Wozniak
Erwin Bureau Chief
jwozniak@johnsoncitypress.com (jwozniak@johnsoncitypress.com)

POPLAR, N.C. – A plethora of public safety personnel are searching the mountains on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee this afternoon in an effort to find a husband and wife who were hiking and reported missing Thursday night.

Cheryl Merriken, 58, and David Merriken, 59, 530 Gray Station, Gray, had taken a day hike on Wednesday but had not returned by the time their children came home from school, said Kent Harris, sheriff of Unicoi County, Tenn.
"The parents never showed up, so they contacted some friends, church members trying to locate them," he said.
Authorities started looking for the couple on Thursday night after friends called.
About noon today, sheriff's Deputy Kelly Blevins and Marty Luttrell, a church friend of the couple, found their car, a Ford Focus rental car on Flat Top Mountain here. The spot is in the Pigsah National Forest about 15 miles from downtown Erwin, Tenn., that is reached by driving through Spivey Mountain in Unicoi County.
Based on the car's condition, UCSD Capt. Rick Butler said there was no indication of foul play. Luttrell said Merriken has a bad knee, and one possible scenario espoused by Butler is that the man might have injured himself.
But Luttrell, who described the couple as avid hikers, said there are some reasons why they moved her that he did not want to disclose other than saying it involved a court case.
"That brought us some immediate concern over the situation," he said.
"It's definitely an unusual set of circumstances at this point for them not to be here. It's a little strange that she's not come out of the woods on her own to seek help and bring somebody back to them."
But Luttrell agreed with Butler that this appeared to be more of a case of injury.
Representatives of Unaka Mountain Search and Rescue, the volunteer fire departments in Unicoi County and the sheriff's department were in the mountains looking for the couple. A command post has been set up on Granny Lewis Creek in Unicoi County. The Yancey County Sheriff's Department also has been called.
Luttrell and Unicoi County sheriff's Lt. Jason Tilson hiked from Flat Top in search of the Merrikens.
Harris said authorities also have talked to Appalachian Trail hikers to ascertain whether they have encountered the Merrikens.
"Our hope is to find them today, and hopefully they will be all right," Harris said.
According to a report filed with the Washington County, Tenn., Sheriff's Department, Mrs. Merriken has blond hair and blue eyes and is about 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall. Her husband has gray hair and blue eyes and is 6 feet tall. He is a captain on a barge. Luttrell estimated the couple have lived in the area for five to seven years. He believes they moved here from Pensacola, Fla.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
05-09-2008, 17:11
Prayers they are found soon. Missing since Wednesday and have minor children - this really doesn't sound good at all.

05-09-2008, 17:14
Prayers they are found soon. Missing since Wednesday and have minor children - this really doesn't sound good at all.

I echo FD's words here...hope they are found soon and things turn out okay.

Cabin Fever
05-09-2008, 17:19
There's a lot of thick bush in that area. I hope there is plenty of help.

05-09-2008, 17:21
My thoughts and prayers go out to these folks and especially their children. May the Lord shelter them under his wings.

05-09-2008, 17:48
Many prayers being lifted up for their safe and speedy return.....

05-09-2008, 18:26

Jury Convicts Florida Bosses in Criminal Racketeering Suit

Federal prosecutors called forth almost 30 witnesses to the stand during the four-week trial, reviewing thousands of documents. The McKay brothers, whose father, Raymond, had served as president of the 4,000-member Dania Beach, Fla.-based union for 36 years, insisted they’d been framed. That’s what Michael McKay’s lawyer, Neal Sonnett, believed as well. “I’m very, very disappointed,” he said. “I truly believe Michael McKay was innocent. I can’t read the jurors’ minds, but they certainly didn’t have time to go through all of the evidence in the case.” But neither he nor Robert McKay’s lawyer, Fred Haddad, called a single witness to testify. The government’s star witness was David Merriken. As the union’s benefit plan manager during the latter half of the Nineties, he was in a position to see how the McKays used their union as a personal bank. He tipped off prosecutors to the problems at the Maritime Officers, and agreed to wear a wire to work in exchange for a vow of immunity. He wound up secretly taping around 200 hours of conversations, some of which were played at the trial. Prosecutor Robert Tully remarked in closing arguments that none of the persons recorded had any incentive to lie. “You can take what is on the tapes to the bank,” he said.

Why did Merriken cooperate? It was a combination of principle and fear. In a separate civil suit filed against the union, Merriken, said his attorney, Robert Harris, didn’t want member dues routed to illegal activities. “He could not sleep at night knowing that,” said Harris. But Merriken also worried that as director of AMO’s benefit plans, he stood to be prosecuted. The McKays’ lawyers viewed Merriken, a former longtime friend of the McKays, as nothing more than an inside rat trying to save his own skin. Neal Sonnett in particular termed Merriken a “scheming, diabolical mastermind of criminal activity.” Merriken put it this way after hearing the verdict while working on board a tug barge: “I feel bad that anybody has to go to jail. But these were bad people and I believe they deserve the verdict the jury handed down.” In the end, the jury convicted Michael and Robert McKay, ages 59 and 56, on racketeering conspiracy. They also found Michael McKay guilty on three counts of mail fraud and two record-keeping offenses, though not guilty of embezzling from an employee benefit plan. Robert McKay was convicted for mail fraud, embezzlement and false record-keeping.

05-09-2008, 18:30
That's not cool. Hope they're OK.

05-09-2008, 18:56
Sounds to me like they've been bumped off.


05-09-2008, 19:05
I can't go back and get all the info for fact finding here...but...seems to me it's kinda' fishey that someone may have taken advantage of the latter/recent AT issues with other people being assaulted/killed in the area?...:eek:

05-09-2008, 19:33
Too early to tell and I really hope that they are simply lost or some other "thing" has happened...if they did become the victims of foul play it is unfortunate for the trail and hikers everywhere that it just so happened to happen on the trail.

Did they leave word with anyone where they were going, which trails, direction ? If a "plethora" of people are out looking for them and they haven't turned anything up....it doesn't sound good. I really hope I'm wrong.

SGT Rock
05-09-2008, 20:01
Here is a pic in case you saw them up there:

http://www.tricities.com/media/TRI/2008/05/09/0014.Image.NULL,ArticleMediaImage.300,300,0,NULL,N ULL.MGSpooler.img

Frolicking Dinosaurs
05-10-2008, 06:53
They have been found by rafters on the Nolichucky!!!! (http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=9006313) They were lost and following the river and CSX tracks down to Erwin. Looks like they had a rough time:

05-10-2008, 07:21
No mention of what happened to their dogs?

05-10-2008, 08:01
For allwho prayed for their safe return, it is now time to Thank the receipant of your prayers for their safe retuen, Please don't forget to "close the deal"

05-10-2008, 08:21
That's good news indeed. Glad to hear they were found.

05-10-2008, 09:30
I wonder if they had a map and compass?

05-10-2008, 09:34
Great news!!!!

Frolicking Dinosaurs
05-10-2008, 09:36
The article said this was a last-minute trip and they did not have any gear with them - only the clothes they were wearing and 2 apples, 2 oranges.

05-10-2008, 09:38
The article said this was a last-minute trip and they did not have any gear with them - only the clothes they were wearing and 2 apples, 2 oranges.

They're luuuuucky. I suspect they won't do that again.

Glad they're OK.

05-10-2008, 09:49
good to hear,

05-10-2008, 09:50
Another happy ending to a story of survival due to lack of planning. Had they read Dino lady's thread on "what's in your daypack?" and carried one, they might have been more comfortable. Quite a story to tell, though.

05-11-2008, 20:01
They should have had a cell phone like Mathewski. We could have mounted another rescue...


Tennessee Viking
05-12-2008, 00:12
I just hiked over Flattop down to Lost Cove. Its not that hard to find.

05-12-2008, 07:44
Daypack daypack daypack. Carry a daypack, pack for a night.

05-12-2008, 08:22
I think this thread is a great example of how this site and others like it do great work in getting the word out fast about missing hikers. SGT Rock even managing to get a pic up. You never know when a posting like this could make all the difference.

I generally keep my opinions to myself, but hikers have to look out for one another. Good job guys! Cheers!

05-12-2008, 10:40
I wonder if they had a map and compass?

I am glad they are ok, but far, far too often, I see people hiking without a map and compass. It is difficult for me to have a lot of sympathy for folks who do this. Even the most well established trail gets confusing when you get turned around.

05-12-2008, 17:09
The problem is that not only do you have to have a map and compass, you have to have the knowledge to use them correctly. Most people do not have such knowledge. I will admit that I probably have enough to get me out of the woods, but that is about it!

Frolicking Dinosaurs
05-12-2008, 17:14
We discussed what needs to be in a daypack a while back. For the newcomers: Link (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=29100)

05-12-2008, 17:19
I got lost in the Alaska Range a couple springs ago luckily I had a pack with everything I needed to make it the night.

05-13-2008, 15:03
Their dogs???????? whatever.

I've spent an unplanned night in the wilderness and it's not fun. I'm sure the next time they go out they'll have firestarting ability, water, etc. I know I will after my ordeal. They look dehydrated and very tired,....but alive...and that's what matters most. Thank God they are ok.