Cowart, 28, of Kingston, was last seen about 10 p.m. April 3 when his girlfriend said the couple went to bed. Police became involved the next morning, beginning a search of the surrounding area.
In the 12 days since, authorities, family, friends and volunteers have scoured the area, covering a 5-mile radius along the Etowah River.
“I feel confident Lt. [Robert] Moultrie and the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office exhausted all our resources in the search for Mr. Cowart,” Sheriff Clark Millsap said Monday evening.
Moultrie, the lead investigator, said an extensive weekend search had yielded no clues. He said search-and-rescue teams along with volunteers covered the 5-mile area, including a beaver dam in the river.
The family last week had expressed frustration over the search, claiming authorities had done little.
“It’s mostly total frustration because we can’t seem to get any answers from the authorities on what they’re doing or if they are going to do anything,” Pam Hyde, Cowart’s aunt, said then.
BCSO deputies, Bartow County Fire Department personnel and the Department of Natural Resources had searched until nightfall the day Cowart was reported missing. Since that time, a helicopter has flown over the area several times in an attempt to provide a better view of the often muddy and swift-moving Etowah.
Ground and river searches also have been conducted in the week since Cowart went missing. Cowart, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 150 pounds, was last seen wearing pajamas and left with no personal belongings.
Moultrie, who said he was surprised no clues materialized from the weekend search, said the case will remain open and active but the department has run out of leads until new information surfaces.
Millsap said the department will continue to monitor the river and will follow any new leads that come in.
The family said Cowart suffers short-term memory loss and seizures. In the missing person report filed with the BCSO, Cowart’s sister told authorities the man “had a problem with illegal drugs and that he had been up for several days.”
Hyde said Cowart “at one time” had a problem with drugs and the girlfriend had reported he was hallucinating.
“That is another thing [whether Cowart was on drugs] we are not real sure of. He had been trying to come off the drugs,” she said. “... I was told that [the girlfriend] told them he was saying, ‘People are after us, and we’ve got to leave.’”
For authorities, a missing person case requires a case-by-case analysis.
“A deputy/investigator takes the initial missing persons report. Usually there is enough information to enter the missing person into the GCIC/NCIC databases as a nationwide lookout for law enforcement agencies,” BCSO Investigator Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said last week.
“A law-abiding adult citizen has the right to leave under their own power without notifying anyone, so if there are no other circumstances to the situation, the entry into the database is all that is done. In some cases, there are circumstances that warrant a local or area search, such as the missing person did not take a vehicle or has medical issues or other reasons. In that case, deputies look for anything that may indicate foul play or an accident in the area,” Rogers said. “If nothing is still found at this point, the case will rely on other information being found or given as to what may have caused the person to go missing. Lacking more to follow up on, the missing person remains listed as missing in the database. Law enforcement also gives information to surrounding agencies about the missing person. If any new details or tips are reported, deputies and investigators will follow up appropriately.”
Anyone with any information on Cowart is asked to call BCSO at 770-382-5050 or dial 911.