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Wesley Ridge
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Wesley Ridge

Investigators are stymied after a ground search came up empty last week on Aetna Mountain for Marion County, Tenn., resident Wesley Ridge, who has been missing almost two years.

"We did a four- or five-hour ground search but we didn't have any luck," Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said on Wednesday. "That's the only thing we've had on him in a while."

Burnett said investigators last week worked with wireless phone company officials to triangulate some of the last signals from Ridge's cell phone and signals from a cell phone belonging to a person of interest in the case.

The sheriff said four official searches have been conducted to date; two on Aetna Mountain, one on Ladds Mountain and another near Nickajack Dam, all in the Guild-Haletown area west of Jasper. Burnett said family members and friends have conducted several searches, too, but no clues have been turned up so far.

Ridge, 39 when he was last seen on March 8, 2016, had most recently lived at a home near Hales Bar Marina on U.S. Highway 41. Ridge had worked at Valmont Industries in Jasper.

During the initial investigation, a female friend told authorities that Ridge walked into his home and then left in a car with another man. That man told investigators he had given Ridge a ride to a bar in nearby Jasper, but no one at the bar remembered seeing him, authorities said in 2016.

The man who gave Ridge the ride is considered a "person of interest" in the investigation, but only because he was the last to see Ridge, Burnett said Wednesday.

The family has offered a substantial reward for information that leads to Ridge's whereabouts, the sheriff said.

The Ridge family had a tragic year in 2016 with Ridge's disappearance in March and the killing of his uncle, 72-year-old Jerry Ridge, during a robbery just two months later. Jerry Ridge's body was found inside his business, Valley Pawn in Whitwell, after firefighters extinguished a blaze there May 17, 2016.

A 51-year-old Whitwell woman was charged in the homicide, theft of weapons and fire, but investigators did not find any link between the two cases, officials said.

Meanwhile, investigators need help from the public.

Ridge is described as about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 230 pounds with short hair and facial hair.

Anyone with any information on Ridge's whereabouts is asked to call the Marion County Sheriff's Office at 423-942-2525.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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