Cell phone could be key to finding missing Garner man, deputies say

Thomas Earl Finch, in an updated photo. (Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

BRACEY, Va. (WNCN) — Deputies are hoping to find a Garner man missing near Lake Gaston by tracking his cell phone Wednesday.

Thomas Earl Finch’s phone is still pinging a cell phone tower near Bracey, Virginia where the 47-year-old’s car was found abandoned at a church, said Maj. T. Edmonds of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

But a search Tuesday involving 30 deputies, K-9s and a volunteer community emergency response team turned up nothing after combing the area’s thick woods.

The Virginia State Police have brought in more-advanced technology, which authorities hope will allow them to better pinpoint Finch’s phone. The phone hasn’t been used since Finch went missing, but it is still active on the cell system, Edmonds said.

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Edmonds said that while search efforts are currently based around the cell phone, authorities don’t even know for certain that Finch is still in the area.

There was a heavy rain late Monday, and none of the deputies searching Tuesday found disturbed ground, which might have indicated someone moving around in the area, Edmonds said.

“We don’t know if he’s caught a ride, whether he’s still here,” he said.

Finch was last seen Friday at the Lake Gaston Inn in Bracey, Virginia, near Interstate 85, just north of Lake Gaston.

Finch’s vehicle was found parked at Kingswood United Methodist Church, about a mile and half from the motel.

Finch is 5 feet 8 inches tall and has green eyes. Deputies say he could be on foot. Wednesday, deputies released an updated photograph of the missing man.

RELATED: Missing Garner man’s car found at church near Lake Gaston, deputies say

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