Ayers was found in his truck approximately 100 feet from the roadway. He had been reported missing Saturday.
Ayers was last seen around 1:15 Saturday morning, according to police reports. Investigator Dave Stauffacher of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said cellphone records placed Ayers in Athens from 9:30 Friday night to 1:15 Saturday morning.
“He had texted a buddy in Adairsville,” Stauffacher said. “[He] said, ‘I’m going to come get you.’ The buddy didn’t take him seriously — didn’t think he was actually coming — and apparently his was on his way to do just that.”
OCSO, which took the missing person report, worked with Verizon wireless to locate Ayers. There was no cellphone activity until 5:25 p.m. Saturday when the phone sent out a single ping that was not a phone call or text message. Stauffacher said it was common for phones to ping a cell tower when the battery dies.
While Verizon and the sheriff’s office were able to track the ping to an area three and a half miles from the cell tower, they could not narrow the search area any further. An aerial search using a helicopter did not locate Ayers either.
Stauffacher believed that by the time the missing person report was filed it was too late to find Ayers.
“His friends were very helpful. His family was very helpful. All the agencies I worked with were very helpful. I mean, we did everything we could, but, I think, it was kind of a moot point. I think by the time he was reported missing it was too late. That’s pretty heartbreaking,” he said.
According to Cpl. Jake Smith of the Gwinnett County Police Department, a truck driver saw Ayer’s vehicle off the side of the road Monday and called it in to Gwinnett County Police around 5 p.m. However, the responding officers were unable to see the vehicle due to the steep angle and large amount of underbrush.
The same truck driver was traveling past the same point an hour later and saw where Ayer’s vehicle was still off the road. He called it in again and waited until officers arrived on scene so he could show them where the truck had gone off the road.
Smith said the only way anyone could have seen the pickup sitting off the road was to be sitting high up at the right angle, as the truck driver was in his tractor-trailer.
Gwinnett police believed the truck ran off the road at high speed and hit a tree. They also believed no other vehicles were involved in the accident.
While no alcohol or drugs were found in the truck’s passenger compartment, the results of a toxicology examination were not yet available.