One Year After His Disappearance, Dr. William Coltharp Still Missing

October 2, 2012
Dwayne Page
Dr. William Coltharp

Its been a full year since a Nashville surgeon went missing while kayaking on Center Hill Lake.

The disappearance of 55 year old Dr. William Coltharp, who was last seen on October 2, 2011 is still considered a "missing person" case and no foul play is suspected at this time, according to Sheriff Patrick Ray.

An intensive search for Dr. Coltharp continued for several weeks after he went missing.

Meanwhile, the family of Dr. Coltharp is offering a reward of $10,000 for the recovery of any body-remains, clothing, and or personal effects of Dr. Coltharp who is believed to be deceased. He was last seen wearing a Khaki-colored cotton pull over with zipper and leather elbows, jeans, and sandals. Any items found should be taken to the sheriff's department. The reward is only payable from the death proceeds of insurance policies insuring Dr. Coltharp's life which are payable to Dr. Coltharp's wife and or children.

In the days after his disappearance, Sheriff Ray said that Dr. Coltharp left his residence in Nashville at approximately 4:00 p.m. Sunday, October 2, 2011 enroute to Center Hill Lake to kayak."

"Dr. Coltharp went to Hurricane boat ramp that evening. There were two independent witnesses who confirmed that Dr. Coltharp arrived at the Hurricane boat ramp by himself at approximately 6:00 p.m. We also confirmed by other sources such as cell towers where he had used his cell phone that Dr. Coltharp was in this area. A witness stated that he had spoken to Dr. Coltharp. The doctor was last seen on Center Hill Lake on the west side of Hurricane bridge".

"Sometime after midnight on Monday, October 3, 2011 Dr. Coltharp's wife left Nashville enroute to Center Hill Lake. She did not know the exact location that Dr. Coltharp had launched his kayak but was somewhat familiar with that area of Floating Mill and the Hurricane Marina. While enroute to DeKalb County, she contacted law enforcement about her husband being missing. She was directed to the dispatch center for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. She talked with a TWRA officer and eventually found her husband's vehicle, a 1999 White Chevy Suburban, in the parking lot of Hurricane boat ramp. DeKalb Central Dispatch was notified at 1:22 a.m. by TWRA about the missing man. Deputies from the DeKalb Sheriff's Department arrived on the scene at 1:44 a.m. Monday morning, October 3, 2011. Neither Dr. Coltharp nor his kayak were anywhere to be found," said Sheriff Ray.

"At approximately 2:30 a.m. a search was started for Dr. Coltharp. At approximately 5:00 a.m., an upside down kayak, which contained a life jacket, was found which is believed to be Dr. Coltharp's kayak. A paddle was found further down stream later that day. An Apple MacBook laptop computer was also found in the kayak's storage box. The computer was soaked in water but was retrieved from the kayak and sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab to see if any information could be retrieved from it. The kayak was found approximately one mile from the Hurricane boat ramp".

"Later that same morning (Monday, October 3, 2011), at approximately 9:40 a.m., a worker, contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was working at the Hurricane boat ramp and found a handgun case as he was changing out garbage bags. There was no handgun inside the case. Through an investigation, the handgun case was found to belong to Dr. Coltharp."

"On Friday evening, October 7, 2011 authorities confirmed through a witness that Dr. Coltharp arrived at the lake right before dark (Sunday, October 2, 2011) and was seen loading a cylinder concrete block onto the kayak with him. He then paddled in the direction where the kayak was later found".

"The only thing we have in our investigation are facts and these are the facts of the case. There is no evidence that points towards foul play. Its only a missing person report at this time and it will continue to be until we find the body or find him," said Sheriff Ray.

Although Coltharp's kayak, life jacket, a pair of kayak gloves, computer and gun case were recovered, authorities never found the keys to Dr. Coltharp's SUV or his cell phone. As for the gun case, Sheriff Ray said authorities confirmed that Dr. Coltharp owned a handgun and the serial numbers matched those on the gun case.

TWRA Officer Nick Luper said the search for Dr. Coltharp was in a general area about a mile downstream of the Hurricane boat ramp, in about sixty feet of water. "Part of our search involved dragging the bottom of the lake. We did a lot of that in the beginning stages. The Nashville Office of Emergency Management later brought in a towfish which is a type of sonar. Anytime we came across an image of interest to us, we sent down a diver to confirm that," he said.

The DeKalb County Rescue Squad received assistance in the search for Dr. Coltharp from Coffee, Cannon, Jackson, Warren, and White Counties, the City of Smyrna, the United Auto Workers of Nashville, members of the Bloodhound Search and Rescue Group, the Nashville Office of Emergency Management, the Corps of Engineers, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, among others.

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