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Missing Gretna man found safe

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72-year-old’s son says his father told him he had been picked up by three women

By Alice Du Pont

Garrett Hughes, the 72-yer-old Gretna man who was the subject of a week-long manhunt, has been found safe. Interim Gretna Police Chief Carlos De La Cruz said a call came to the police station shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday morning from a woman who said she saw a man outside of her home gathering sticks. The individual fit the description the woman she had seen on television earlier in the week of the missing man.

An officer went to the home, less than a mile from Hughes’ home, and identified the man as Hughes. He was taken to the hospital without incident.

Hughes’ son, Darrett, said his father was in “very good shape physically” after spending five nights away from home.
“He said he wasn’t hungry when he got to the hospital, and doctors said he was dehydrated a little. Other than that he was OK. He recognized all of the family,” said the younger Hughes.

Hughes’ clothes were slightly damp, except for his shoes, which indicated he might have stepped into a stream, according to his son. When asked where he had been for five days, Hughes told his family that he had been picked up by three women.

“This could be true because he would never have gotten into a car with a man. He’s just that kind of person. I believe him because he was really, really happy Saturday. We also found a plastic fork in his pocket, which was unusual. The woman who called said she heard a car door slam before she saw him in her yard. I think the police are continuing the investigation,” he said.

Friday evening, as night fell, Hughes said he told the people he had been searching with all day that if his father was all right, they would get a call during the weekend.

“He loved the weekend, and I felt that with a lot of people being out over the weekend someone would see something or hear something that would lead us to him. I never gave up, because I didn’t have the feeling that this would turn out bad. When our mother passed, I knew what that was going to be, but I didn’t have the same feeling about Pops,” he said.

The ordeal, according to Darrett, seems to have brought the family closer.

“I believe God was testing our faith as a family. Calls came from family members as far away as Kentucky and Tennessee, offering help and support. The local relatives were out searching from Day One,” he said.

He also said the family collectively thanks the volunteers who came from all over North Florida and South Georgia to help in the search. At one point, more than 170 volunteers were on foot, using search dogs, helicopters and ATVs searching for Hughes.

“We appreciate the generosity of everyone. We thank all of those who stood by us and those who prayed for our Pops to come home safely,” he said.

Hughes will remain hospitalized until a battery of other tests has been completed. Family members are making arrangements to place him in a local facility where he will be cared for around the clock.