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Ga. police investigate site in connection with missing North Ridgeville resident


Georgia authorities confirmed a 24-hour search took place last week for a former North Ridgeville resident missing in Georgia for 6½ years.

The search was verified Monday by Gwinnett County Sheriff Deputy Shannon Volkodav, the department’s public information officer.

Officials dug up ground around a well near a small town in Gwinnett County in metropolitan Atlanta, Volkodav said.

Volkodav declined to say if anything was found at the site, saying the case remains a missing persons investigation.

Volkodav confirmed investigators began digging at the old well site about noon Thursday and suspended their efforts about noon Friday.

“Investigators have been following up leads throughout,” Volkodav said.

Georgia media reported the dig was sparked by a tip given to investigators, but Volkodav said that wasn’t accurate. “The reason they were interested in that location was the result of various leads they (investigators) had developed,” Volkodav said.

Justin Gaines, whose birthday was Monday, was 18 at the time of his disappearance in the early morning hours Nov. 2, 2007, after he had been at a bar in Duluth, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, with friends, authorities said at the time.

A student at Gainesville State College, Justin was visiting his mother, Erika Wilson, who lived in nearby Snellville, Ga., when he was last seen after calling a friend for a ride about 2 a.m., according to what his father, Richard Gaines, told The Chronicle-Telegram in a May 2, 2008, story. Unable to get a ride, Justin vanished about 30 minutes after making the call, his father said.

Richard Gaines could not be reached and the home where he used to live now appears to be vacant.

Messages left Monday at a Snellville, Ga., phone number listed for Erika Wilson were not returned.

Justin Gaines lived and attended school in North Ridgeville as a child before moving to Georgia while he was in elementary school.

At the time of Justin Gaines’ disappearance, his father said investigators believed foul play was involved.

Multiple searches were made and more than 100 people interviewed by authorities after Gaines’ disappearance, Gwinnett County sheriff’s officials said at the time.

The family also hired a private investigator to pursue the case.

Gwinnett County sheriff’s investigators are working with personnel from the Gwinnett County Police Department on the case, Volkodav said.

“We continue to follow leads,” Volkodav said. “We are committed to do whatever we can to bring a resolution.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

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