Authorities believe man missing since 2020 has been found
The nearly three-year-old case of a missing man ended Saturday on Hector.
Authorities believe the remains of Robert ‘Bob’ Estep, missing since December 15th, 2020, was found by a hunter in a remote area off Ky. 149 near Britton Branch.
An unidentified hunter was scouting his property and decided to move locations. When he climbed up the mountain, he saw a red four-wheeler turned over. He then noticed what appeared to be a body under the ATV and immediately contacted the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Patrick Robinson and staff, along with coroner Joe Crockett and members of the Manchester/Lockard’s Creek Rescue Squad responded to the scene.
The search started on foot as they found a way to reach the area on ATV’s.
After an over three-mile trek, they reached the very remote area.
“We found a Kawasaki four-wheeler completely overturned on a small trail,” the sheriff said. “The description matched the ATV Estep was reported as riding when he disappeared.”
Further investigation led to the discovery of the muzzleloader rifle along with a duffle bag and backpack under the ATV.
The ATV was winched using a large tree as leverage off the body.
Coroner Joe Crockett conducted his investigation and gathered the remains. Preliminary indications do not point to foul play, but an accidental death currently.
“We will be requesting an autopsy to confirm the remains,” Crockett said. “But I agree with the sheriff, this appears to be Mr. Estep.”
The location is not far from Estep’s home on Ky. 149 and security cameras showed him passing close to the area at the time of his disappearance. Search efforts were centered on Britton Branch at that time as family members thought that may have been where he went deer hunting.
The family never stopped looking for their loved one. When word of the discovery became known Saturday, Estep’s family members came to the scene.
Estep’s son, Ronald, met the sheriff at the scene and confirmed the ATV was his father’s.
“I have no doubt this is dad’s four-wheeler,” he said. “But I’ve never known of him coming back in here to hunt.”
His son said the area was one his father always liked to hunt.
“He liked hunting on a ridge off a point,” he said. “This is the type of terrain he would have wanted to hunt.”
It was a rush of emotions for the Estep family as a large crowd gathered along Ky. 149.
Sheriff Robinson said he was glad the family has closure.
“They’ve worked tirelessly from the time he went missing to find him,” the sheriff said. “I’m glad they’ll be able to have some closure in this very heart-breaking incident.”
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