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  1. #1
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    NC - Derek Lueking, 24, Cherokee, 17 March 2012 - hiked into Smoky Mtns

    Osbourn Park grad missing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Derek Joseph Leuking*, 24, a graduate of Osbourn Park High School, has gone missing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (*this article misspelled his name, the correct spelling is Lueking)

    According to Leuking’s aunt Julie Phillips of Bristow, park rangers in Newfound Gap, N.C., near the Tennessee border sent out helicopters and blood hounds Monday to look for Leuking, who went missing Thursday.

    <snip>

    Leuking was reportedly last seen at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at a hotel in Cherokee, N.C., according to the News Sentinel in Knoxville.

    Since then, park rangers have searched 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail and connecting trails from Newfound Gap looking for Leuking, the Sentinel said.

    His car was found in the Newfound Gap parking area inside the park.
    Family hopes missing hiker Derek Lueking still alive
    On Sunday, family and friends of Lueking blanketed trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to look for Lueking, 24, of Louisville, who has been missing in the Park since March 17. Searchers have been focusing on drainage areas in Newfound Gap after finding his car in the Newfound Gap parking lot on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

    “We will never stop looking for Derek,” a family member wrote Sunday on the Find Derek Lueking FaceBook page. “Although we still think he is in the Park and off trail, there is a possibility that he is out in the world somewhere. So we will put the word out in the world as much as we can while still making sure people know who he is in the Smoky Mountains.
    Official Find Derek Lueking Facebook Page:
    https://www.facebook.com/FindDerekLueking

    His Mom gives some important info on the FB page that I didn't see in any MSM articles (though I may have missed it). I hope it's OK to quote it here.
    Derek went missing Wednesday March 14th from his home in Louisville Tennessee. Over the next two days he purchased over $1000 in camping supplies from Bass Pro Shop, Knifeworks and Coleman’s. We believe he stayed at the Motel 6 on the 14th, the Smokemont Campground in the Park on the 15th and the Microtel Hotel in Cherokee on the 16th. His car was found March 17th at 8:30am at Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains after family saw him leave the Microtel Hotel alone in Cherokee, North Carolina through video footage at 4:00am. A note stating only “Don’t Look For Me” was found in his car along with wallet and car key.

    <snip>

    Derek was a fan of the survivalist Bear Gryll’s TV show and theoretically he did have the necessary supplies to live in the woods for a long period of time. We believe he had a least a backpack, a waterproof watch, a Bear Grylls survival tool pack (including a multi tool, small flashlight, firestarter rod), a Gerber pack axe, Several pages of a military survival manual, a knife sharpener, a compass/thermometer, 100’ of black parachute cord, a head lamp, pocket knife, IPod Touch, a book about the Smoky’s and the trails, and some granola bars. He also purchased additional supplies from Wal-Mart for cash (5 empty bags were found in the car with opened packaging listing Wal-Mart), but we have not been able to confirm what he purchased. Appalachian trail hikers who have talked to the family have said that Derek could survive for a long time with the supplies he had.

    Official searchers have hiked hundreds of miles of trails the weeks after his disappearance which included using multiple dog sent trackers, three different days using helicopters, and one night helicopter. Unfortunately no significant clues were found leading to Derek, but Rangers still believe he is in the park somewhere possibly off trail.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    Also from his FB page...

    He did not have a cell phone with him and his phone and computer were throughly checked by family and the rangers IT person.... The tent and sleeping bag was found in his truck....
    I'm hung up on leaving the tent and sleeping bag in the truck if he was truly planning on staying in the mountains for a while. Even though the weather is warming up the temps could still get cold some nights. However, depending on the tent and bag, it could have made his hiking load too heavy so he decided to leave them. I do know if you stay on the trail there are huts or lean-to's along the route that are distanced about a day's hike apart.

    I pray the family gets some news soon.

    I wonder which book he took about the Smoky mountains and trails. Perhaps family could obtain a copy to read and see if anything really sticks out to them about a particular trail or area that might peak Derek's interest.

  3. #3
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    Me too, TexasLil. I've hiked in Newfound Gap, it's a beautiful place. Tents & sleeping bags are must-haves for overnights. A day hike wouldn't require all the supplies he must have taken with him & leaving the note is creepy. Independently, each aspect is acceptable but together it doesn't fit.

    One wouldn't have to venture far offtrail to slip, fall, sprain or break something & be sitting there waiting to be rescued. Prayers he will be found safe.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexasLil View Post
    I'm hung up on leaving the tent and sleeping bag in the truck if he was truly planning on staying in the mountains for a while. Even though the weather is warming up the temps could still get cold some nights. However, depending on the tent and bag, it could have made his hiking load too heavy so he decided to leave them. I do know if you stay on the trail there are huts or lean-to's along the route that are distanced about a day's hike apart.

    I pray the family gets some news soon.

    I wonder which book he took about the Smoky mountains and trails. Perhaps family could obtain a copy to read and see if anything really sticks out to them about a particular trail or area that might peak Derek's interest.
    BBM: The tent and sleeping bag being left behind is strange to me too. Those would be two of my essential must-have items for an extended camping/hiking trip.

    RE: the book, that's a great idea! If you have an FB account, maybe you can suggest it? His mom seems very warm and open and answers every question asked of her, so I think she'd appreciate the idea.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by noZme View Post
    Me too, TexasLil. I've hiked in Newfound Gap, it's a beautiful place. Tents & sleeping bags are must-haves for overnights. A day hike wouldn't require all the supplies he must have taken with him & leaving the note is creepy. Independently, each aspect is acceptable but together it doesn't fit.

    One wouldn't have to venture far offtrail to slip, fall, sprain or break something & be sitting there waiting to be rescued. Prayers he will be found safe.
    This is what I'm worried about. And he'd be sitting there injured, thinking about the note he left in his car, going "Dang!!" I'm glad his family is looking for him despite the note.

  6. #6
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    Derek has been entered into NamUs:
    https://www.findthemissing.org/en/cases/show/14295

  7. #7
    Aborted search for missing Smokies hikers cost at least $70,000

    They searched. They sniffed.

    They soared over the treetops in helicopters in the effort to spot the missing men — all in vain.

    The fruitless search for two men in the national park last month cost taxpayers more than $70,000, officials said last week.

    [snip]

    Meanwhile, Michael Cocchini and hiker Derek Lueking, who officials say didn’t know each other, remain missing. “Neither one has been found,” park spokesman Bob Miller said. “We have no idea what happened to them.”

    More: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20120408/NEWS/304080042/Hiker-searches-cost-70K?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Frontpage|s

  8. #8
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    Truthful Lies is offline "Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one's courage" ~ Anaïs Nin
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    This case has been bothering me...I know it's a big area, but why, oh why, did he leave a note saying not to search for him but carried plenty of survival equipment? Did he tell anyone at all that he was going on some sort of "spiritual retreat"? This baffles me.
    Where is Jennifer Kesse? www.findjenniferkesse.com

  9. #9
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    How often do adults who disappear leave a note before they do so?
    Statistically... what are the odds that is going to happen?

    Yes it's odd that two of them go missing in the same area... in less than 36 hours...
    But they both leave notes too?
    Really?
    What are the odds that is nothing more than a coincidence?

    I also have to wonder if they didn't meet online or something. I have no idea why they would have met up like this...
    But this certainly appears like it could have been planned together. I just don't know what the reason would be.

    Have they checked phone records to see who they were talking to in the days before they disappeared?
    It would be interesting to know... Did Michael maybe get a call from a payphone or hotel just before he disappeared?

    Were there any unusual calls just before Michael disappeared... Especially in the areas they say Derek was in.
    That could have been Derek calling to let him know he was ready. He would have gotten the supplies by that point.

    It is just so weird... and if it wasn't for the notes... I would think it was a coincidence...
    But leaving notes just isn't that common... so both of them doing it?
    That just seems so planned to me.

  10. #10
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    I'm very curious to know what his mental state was in the days leading to his disappearance, but I'm very hesitant to ask the family about this. Has anyone on here established communication with them yet? On the other hand, I don't think he was suicidal per se, considering how much he spent on survival gear. I just wonder if he was feeling a lot of pressure at the time and wanted to just escape or do some soul searching?
    You won't cry for my absence, I know -
    You forgot me long ago. Am I that unimportant...?
    Am I so insignificant...? Isn't something missing?
    Isn't someone missing me?
    Evanescence
    Please take a moment to see Deanna's Age progression here:
    http://www.missingkids.com/missingki...archLang=en_US
    Deanna Merryfield-missing from Killeen,Tx since July 1990
    http://www.websleuths.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=106164


  11. #11
    3 missing cases still puzzle Tenn. park officials

    Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park deal with lost visitors every year and most all of them are found.

    Three missing person incidents, however, still are unsolved and are known internally as "the big three."

    [snip]

    On March 26, rangers called off simultaneous searches for two men whose cars were found abandoned.

    Up to 60 people per day had been looking for a week for Derek Leuking, 24, of Blount County when the car belonging to 23-year-old Michael Giovanni Cocchini of Nashville was discovered.

    No trace of either has been found and park officials say it's unclear what became of them.

    More: http://www.timesnews.net/article/904...park-officials

  12. #12
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    http://www.wsmv.com/story/17261082/f...or-missing-man

    NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Michael Cocchini left Nashville 7 weeks ago to begin a new life in Gatlinburg near the Smokey Mountains. The family told Channel 4 News, he was doing well, working at a country store. Then on March 18 they received news that he was missing.


    "'Goodbye thanks for everything,' is what the note said," said Krissy Cocchini.






    Given that they only lived about 45 minutes to 1 hour from each other, I am thinking that they DID know each other and for whatever reason may have chosen to keep their relationship secret from their families. Between the dates they were last seen, the location where their vehicles were found and the notes they left behind, I just don't believe that any of it is a co-incidence!

  13. #13
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    I completely agree Melly, that these two knew each other and were trying to keep the relationship a secret. Just my gut feeling from the beginning. My hope is they escaped their present lives to create new ones. My HOPE. MOO.
    "Funny when you're dead how people start listenin' " The Band Perry (If I Die Young). Watch out for and listen to OUR children before its too late.

  14. #14
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    I'm confused? I thought one lived in Louisville and the other in Nashville? I was under the impression that's about a 3 hour drive. jmho.

  15. #15
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    To go from Louisville to Cherokee you have to drive through Gatlinburg and then right through the park. He stayed at one of the campgrounds within the park on the trip to Cherokee. And then he stayed in a hotel in Cherokee and then went back into the park about half way? I think these two knew each other. Too many coincidences.

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