Friends grieve missing Garner man who was found dead in Virginia

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

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) — Friends of a Garner man found dead inside a locked building on an abandoned property in Virginia say they’re grieving his passing.

Thomas Finch, 47, vanished a few days before his body was found near Lake Gaston.

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

Friends of Finch say he used to work with them at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh.

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They say they’ve all been grieving since they heard the news.

“I was heartbroken,” said Timothy Cooper, Finch’s former coworker. “I mean when you’re dealing with a coworker, especially in a prison system you’re like a band of brothers. We stick together. So, when you hear one of your comrades have fallen into their demise it’s hurtful.”

Friends say Finch loved animals and spent his spare time volunteering to care for them.

Before he was found Wednesday afternoon, 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.

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