By JB Clark
TUPELO – On Oct. 22, a 77-year-old Florida man went missing, along with his dog.
Thanks to a persistent daughter, cellphone GPS and the Lee County E-911 dispatchers, he returned home safely.
Richard Haynie left his Cape Coral, Fla., home with his dog on that Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m.
A few hours later, his wife realized he was not walking the dog but driving the dog, and he did not answer his cellphone. His wife called their daughter, Tammy McGill, who lives in Kansas City, Mo.
“When he didn’t turn up that night, we went to the Cape Coral Police and reported him missing,” McGill said.
McGill said she logged into the family’s AT&T cellphone account and activated the company’s 30-day free trial of FamilyMap. The map allows a user to see all of the family members’ phones using GPS.
McGill called law enforcement agencies in Georgia and Alabama as she watched her father’s GPS blip move northwest across the southern states. The agencies notified officers to perform a welfare check if they saw the car but had no luck.
That’s when McGill saw he was closing in on Mississippi and tried Tupelo.
“She said she wasn’t feeling like she was getting help from anyone,” said Jessica Calvis, of Lee County E-911. “I felt bad because I didn’t know what else we could do, but then she mentioned they were tracking his cellphone through AT&T. He was just coming into Mooreville when she first mentioned it – on 78 westbound. At that point I got excited. ‘It’s a whole new ball game now, he’s in our jurisdiction and soon in our city limits.’”
Calvis called the Tupelo Police and told them to be on the lookout for an older white man in a gray Kia with a big dog in the backseat.
Realizing he might be out of Tupelo by the time an officer could get on the highway, she also contacted Mississippi Highway Patrol and had another dispatcher call Cape Coral to get the license plate number of Haynie’s car.
McGill saw the blip on her map stop and began to tell Calvis the address, 4606 McCullough Boulevard, but Calvis cut her off, “That’s Love’s. We’ll get him,” Calvis said.
A highway patrolman was able to locate Haynie at the truck stop and he was confused but in otherwise good condition.
“He and my mom used to live in Missouri and I do, too, so I think that’s where he was headed,” McGill said. “But I’m not sure because when he came up here he had to buy clothes because it’s cold and he didn’t bring clothes.”
The highway patrolman bought Haynie a hamburger and put him up in a motel room for the night. McGill said he ended up staying two days because the 30-hour drive wiped him out.
“We were glad he got stopped. If he had gotten any further, I’m just not sure he would have made it,” she said. “He had no business driving 30 hours at his age.”
Haynie was able to make it to his daughter’s house, and then his son took him back home to Florida.