An elderly Jefferson man was found dead in a creek bed near his home Thursday evening after hundreds of police and volunteers scoured the area for hours.
Anthony Joseph Walker, better known as Tony, was 79 years old. He has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, his daughter Jenifer Kidwell said at a news conference Wednesday night when police were still searching for him. Camera footage from Walker’s home in the 3800 block of Bedford Drive showed him leaving the residence at about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday. He had dementia and hearing loss.
Walker was found dead at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release issued at 8:33 p.m. FCSO spokesman Todd Wivell said Walker was found less than a mile, as the crow flies, from his home.
Two Jefferson residents who decided to walk their property Thursday night found Walker, according to Wivell. The terrain made it "very hard" for Walker to be seen, Wivell said.
“This is an especially sad time for the Walker family, the Jefferson community, and all Frederick County residents,” Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in the release. “Our deepest condolences go out to Tony’s family, friends, and neighbors and please know that the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office will be here to support you however we can.”
The family reported Walker missing to police at about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, according to FCSO. He’d left home previously for strolls, police said, but family always found him relatively quickly.
Walker’s death is an active investigation under the FCSO Criminal Investigations Section, the release reads, and his body will be transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for a full autopsy.
Two days of searching included agencies from Frederick County, Carroll County, Montgomery County, Loudoun County, Virginia; Maryland State Police; Berkeley Springs and Berkeley County, West Virginia; Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Chesapeake Search Dogs, and nearly 200 volunteers, according to FCSO.
Volunteers met at Remsburg Park in Middletown Thursday afternoon and were split into search parties led by police. Their efforts spanned several miles in and around Jefferson.
A search party led by FCSO Cpl. Daniel McDowell focused on a stretch of Jefferson Pike, not far from Valley Elementary School. McDowell directed the group’s path and made note of where they looked. He was impressed by the turnout, some of which included people who never met Walker or his family.
“I don’t know the family,” Frederick resident John Daniels said as he trekked through a field of tall grass and brush. “I think we owe it to each other to assist.”
As volunteers hiked over hills, down valleys and along the side of the road, they expressed dismay over not finding signs of Walker, but remained hopeful Thursday afternoon.
Passing over a stretch of grassy land, Jefferson resident Valerie Eiben wondered aloud whether Walker wore any identifying jewelry like a bracelet. Her father, who has Alzheimer’s, has a bracelet with family contact information. He lives in a group home now, but Eiben said she used to worry about him walking off.
Then Walker went missing.
“When I saw this, I was like, ‘I have to go,’” Eiben said.
McDowell stopped to remind members of his party to stay together in order to search effectively.
“I really, really do appreciate everyone’s help,” McDowell told the group of roughly 15 people. “You guys came out here in the goodness of your heart.”
Jefferson resident Jeff Hall, whose brother is a retired sheriff’s deputy, said he felt compelled to lend a hand.
“This is one of our own,” Hall said. “I would want somebody to do this for me.”
This story has been updated from its original version.