SNOW HILL, N. C. – The body of a young man reported missing was found deceased.
The body of Christopher Thomas Heath, age 21, of 9816 NC 80, Bakersville, N. C., was discovered after officers with the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office, acting on leads, along with his friends and family, started searching a rural area that he had recently been at.
Heath was first reported missing on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. His mother, Regina Burleson, reported him missing after his father sent her text messages asking her if she had seen him. She hadn’t had any contact with him since the early morning hours of February 27th. After taking her report, Deputy D.C. LaPlante with the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office completed an incident report and then forwarded it to Mitchell County Communications so Heath could be entered into the NCIC database, a database accessible by all law enforcement agencies in the U. S., as a missing person. His vehicle information was also entered into NCIC in case it was located.
Detectives began digging for any clues that would lead them closer to Heath. They checked his bank account and cellphone records, as well as with local area hospitals, for any activity that would reveal his whereabouts.
Around a week later, citizen Amy Burleson posted a picture of Heath’s car online. After she received a response from another person stating they observed a vehicle that looked similar to the one in her picture in a motor vehicle collision on Conley Ridge, she started doing a little bit of digging of her own. She started contacting local area wrecker services to see if they might have possibly towed Heath’s vehicle. One of the local wrecker services she contacted was Young’s Fuel Service. An employee confirmed to her that his vehicle was indeed there and that some of his belongings were inside of it. She then contacted Heath’s mother and Sheriff Street.
Acting on the information provided, Sheriff Street dispatched detectives to Young’s Fuel Service on March 15th to locate the vehicle and check it out. Upon arrival, they were able to ascertain that the vehicle had been involved in a collision on Conley Ridge Road on March 3rd. Troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol worked the collision. Deputy LaPlante also responded to provide assistance.
After the revelation of the new information, officers with the State Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office, along with Heath’s family and friends, responded back to the accident scene to search for clues about what happened to him. His body was located around 85 yards from the scene in a densely wooded area.
Heath’s body was sent to Winston-Salem for autopsy. Mitchell County Deputies and State Troopers believe his death was the result of an apparent suicide and was not related to the vehicle collision. An official cause of death has not been released pending autopsy results.
A clerical error occurred when the VIN number of Heath’s vehicle was entered into NCIC. Sheriff Street stated that an extra zero had been mistakenly added to the number. Street also stated that he couldn’t understand why the state’s computer system didn’t provide any information about the wreck since the vehicle was registered to Heath.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been arranged. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.