Searching for a ghost
Local, state personnel band together to look for missing veteran
By Patrick Yost
Searchers Saturday and Sunday found nothing.
And that helps, said Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Robert NeSmith.
For two days more than 200 personnel from a wide swath of local and state agencies scoured the woods behind the east–bound I–20 rest area searching for clues or the remains of Jason Roark. Roark, who served two tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq, was reported missing on November 9, 2006.
His vehicle, a black Honda Accord, was discovered by a private investigator hired by the family to search for their son at the rest area on December 12, 2006.
Since his disappearance, Roark’s family has continued to press for information regarding their son. But Roark remains a ghost, the investigation as empty of leads and clues as the vehicle officers found parked in the shadows of the rest area’s comfort area.
According to published reports, Roark was last seen on November 9, 2006 on a Snellville motel’s security camera. He had recently returned from Iraq and had taken a job as an assistant manager at a Snellville restaurant.
Since then, nothing.
But, NeSmith said, nothing over the weekend is something in this case. “The search couldn’t have failed. We either eliminate or confirm. That was the goal of the search.”
They eliminated. Jason Roark is somewhere, but not near the rest area.
For two days local officials, in coordination with the Georgia State Defense Force, an all–volunteer, unpaid military force, combed more than three square miles of thick wooded area around the rest area searching for clues. “I feel strongly there’s no way that body is there. I don’t believe him to be there,” NeSmith said.
Officers and volunteers created a command area at the rest area that included a small tent city, an impressive tractor–trailer rig stuffed with global satellite positioning and tracking computers to monitor search grids. The volunteer soldiers were fed on site and many, along with Morgan County personnel, slept at the rest area. The rest area was closed for the two days of the search.
Roark was 26 years old when he was reported missing.
“This was done to eliminate Morgan County as a possible location for his body,” NeSmith said. “We know he’s not here. Now we can move on to another area.”