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Search continues for missing man

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Jerry Roscoe Cauthen, 74, walked away from assisting living center Friday

By Hannah Strong and Reece Murphy

UPDATE: Jerry Cauthen's body has been found.

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HEATH SPRINGS – A Lancaster man who walked away from a Heath Springs nursing home Friday remained missing Tuesday. Public safety officials used tracking dogs, while as family and volunteers scoured the woods and fields in the vicinity of Flint Ridge and Earl Cauthen Roads looking for Jerry Roscoe Cauthen.  
Cauthen, 74, is believed to have walked away from Heath Springs Residential Care Center at 614 Hart St., about 4 p.m. Friday, a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office release said.
Cauthen’s son, David Cauthen, said Tuesday his father suffered from dementia that “had already started pushing into Alzheimer’s [disease]” and had just checked into the facility Thursday.
David said the only thing that’s gotten their family through the ordeal so far has been an outpouring of community support.
“It’s been devastating,” David said. “This has been no Christmas for us.”
David said he left his dad about 4 p.m. Friday, which was his second night at Heath Springs Residential Care Center.
“He was in good spirits,” David said. “Everything appeared to be great.”
Despite unconfirmed reports across the county, Cauthen’s last verified sighting was about 5 p.m. Friday, an hour after he left the nursing home.
He was seen walking two miles northeast of the care center, along Flint Ridge Road near the Little Lyches Creek bridge, said Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile.
Cauthen, who is white, is described as 5-feet, 11-inches tall and 160 pounds with balding gray hair. He was wearing blue jeans and a red flannel shirt.
Faile said the deputies and other public safety personnel began searching for Cauthen shortly after he was reported missing. They used foot patrols, four-wheelers, helicopter and infrared cameras, but found no traces of Cauthen.
Faile said between 25 and 100 people a day have helped search the area each day traversing the areas’ rolling hills, pastures and ravines.
“We just appreciate the community support and help locating Mr. Cauthen,” he said. “Certainly, all the prayers and everything everybody’s doing has been tremendous.”
Faile said if Cauthen hasn’t been found by this morning, the county’s multi-agency Specialized Tactics and Resources (STAR) Team will be deployed to continue the search.
“We’re going to bring in the STAR Team tomorrow, then do a debrief and see where we stand,” Faile said Tuesday.
Heath Springs Residential Care Center Director Susan Williams released a statement Tuesday saying all possible efforts are being made to locate and ensure Cauthen’s safe return. She also thanked those who are helping.
“We’ve had staff members out searching for him. I’ve been out searching for him myself,” she said. “He just came here Thursday and left Friday, less than 24 hours, so we don’t know what to think.
“We certainly hope the find him,” Williams said. “We’re heartbroken.”
Anyone with information about Cauthen’s whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (803) 283-4136, (803) 283-3388 or Crimestoppers at (888) 274-6371.