More than two dozen volunteers gathered Saturday morning in the cold as rain drizzled down on the East Mississippi Community College Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew to begin a ground search for an Alabama man who has been missing since last week.
Family and friends of 31-year-old Richard “Cory” Baughn, mostly from Alabama, met before noon and split up to canvas dirt roads and trails in the area where Baughn was last seen.
His father, Richard Baughn, who works for UPS and is a former Alabama state representative, led the effort along with his daughter and Cory’s sister, Katie Hearn.
“I’ve turned this place upside down,” Richard Baughn said. “I’ve been down every road, every deer trail. There’s not a lot of places I haven’t looked.”
His son is believed to have left Starkville traveling east on Highway 82 and was last seen leaving an apartment on Stark Road Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 12.
On Saturday, Oktibbeha County EMA Director Kristen Campanella said her office has been coordinating with the Starkville Police Department and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office to see what next steps need to be made as far as a more detailed search.
She then confirmed that Baughn’s phone last hit the cell tower within a 5,000-meter radius of the Hickory Grove Road area in eastern Oktibbeha County.
“We are looking at what resources that can provide assistance and what our next steps need to be,” she said.
Richard Baughn told those searching his son had suffered from recent bouts of mental illness and had told those he worked with that he was leaving to seek treatment, something Cory Baughn did not mention to others he was close to.
He then said his son’s phone was last picked up on a cell tower in the area of the EMCC campus in Mayhew, which prompted the ground search.
“He spent the night in his car, I know that,” Richard Baughn told the group of volunteers. “He wasn’t at my house and was here until Wednesday morning.”
As part of the effort, Richard Baughn said 25 UPS drivers had volunteered to help cover ground.
“With 25 drivers, it’s amazing the area they can cover,” he said. “We’re going to have to get organized.”
As Saturday winded down, Hearn said 85 volunteers were able to clear the 3.5-mile radius of where her brother was last known to be.
“We now conclusively believe he is not in this area,” she said. “Next, we are going to expand out from this point by surveying major highways leading away from here.”
She then said the family has reason to believe that Baughn did not have more than a half tank of gas when looking at his bank transactions and had not made any purchases on his debit card in recent days.
Baughn is originally from Lynn, Alabama and graduated from Lynn High School, where he played baseball. He then attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he graduated from with a political science degree in 2011.
He was most recently employed as an assistant paint and body expert at O'Reilly Auto Parts in Columbus.
“God knows where he’s at, but maybe He will lead us to him,” Richard Baughn said.
Hearn then encouraged those in the area to look out for her brother’s white 2005 Nissan 350Z with the Alabama tag 5413AF4.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Starkville Police Department at (662) 323-4131.