National Park Service rangers in North Carolina are looking for an unwashed, unkempt 50-year-old manwho might be able to tell them why a missing 64-year-old hiker was found late last week tied to a tree along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
An hour after a friend reported the woman missing last Thursday, rescuers found her barely alive on a trail in Buncombe County. “She’s not deceased at this time but she is tied to a tree,” reported a rescuer told emergency dispatchers. “This is the one we’ve been looking for.”
Rangers say they think she was assaulted on the Mountains to Sea Trail, just four miles from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.
About 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a friend who identified herself as a caregiver called 911, saying she was getting texts from the woman, who was hiking in the area of Snowball Trail at Craggy Gardens.
The caller said she received messages that the woman was having an emergency, and although she was unsure what was happening, she did say the woman has a medical condition.
“She has something that looks like seizures, and when she does, she is conscious long enough sometimes to send a text but generally it renders her somewhat mute,” the caller said in a 911 recording.
When crews arrived, they discovered the hiker tied to tree and transported her to Mission Hospital. Officials have declined to discuss further details, and the hiker’s name and condition haven’t been released.
Leesa Brandon, a public information officer with the Blue Ridge Parkway, released a statement late Friday describing a possible suspect in the incident as a generally unkempt white male, about 50 years old, with salt-and-pepper hair and facial hair that is partially grown in. He was believed to be wearing a light or faded grey short sleeve T-shirt, old or faded baggy blue pants and a dark pair of tennis shoes.
“The subject may appear and smell of a musty odor of being unwashed in several days,” the park service said.