Missing Garner man found dead in locked, abandoned building near Lake Gaston

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

BRACEY, Va. (WNCN) — A missing Garner man has been found dead inside a locked building on an abandoned property near Lake Gaston, deputies said.

Thomas Earl Finch, 47, was found about 5 p.m. Wednesday as deputies and civilian volunteers searched an area just north of the Virginia line near Interstate 85, the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office wrote.

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

Finch had last been seen several days earlier at motel near I-85. His car was found parked at a church about a mile and a half down the road from that motel.

Officials had started searching the woods where his cell phone was pinging on a tower late Monday. By Tuesday, dozens of deputies, plus Virginia Department of Emergency Management personnel with search dogs were scouring the woods.

The Virginia State Police later helped deputies narrow down the area in which Finch’s cell phone was located.

When Finch’s body was found, he was positively identified, according to authorities. His body has been sent to the medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia. An autopsy will help officials determine the cause and manner of his death.

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

In the notice announcing the news, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office thanked the Lake Gaston Fire Department for the use of their building and Toppers Pizza for feeding the searchers.

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