HUGER, SC (WCSC) - A second search in the area where a 78-year-old man was last seen more than a month ago turned up no new clues in his disappearance, according to deputies with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office.
Willie Toomer, a well-known resident of the Huger community, has not been seen since Mother's Day.
Thursday morning Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies, Berkeley County EMS, and volunteers from the community searched the roads, woods, and creeks within a 2.5-mile radius of Toomer's home.
Berkeley County Chief Deputy Mike Cochran said his agency would search in the area beginning at 8 a.m.
"I know he's not the type to go off with anyone," said Darlene Toomer Williams, Toomer's niece. "So I feel like something has happened to him."
Williams was Toomer's caretaker, often driving him to his doctor's appointments and making sure his bills were paid on time. She, along with Toomer's sister-in-law, Dot Scott, said this is "absolutely out of the norm for him." Family members have been left fearing the worst.
"I believe there's foul play," Scott said days after his disappearance. "We're absolutely sure about his routine. He's a creature of habit."
Deputies retraced their steps Thursday by horseback, ATV's and on foot in the same general area where Toomer was last seen May 14.
He walked to church that morning and got a ride back home from a fellow parishioner. After he was dropped off at approximately 12:30 p.m., he vanished.
"I just can't understand, and can't really grasp as to what happened," said Corporal Henry Richardson, a friend of Toomer's who works for the Sheriff's Office.
When Toomer missed his daily meetings with family and friends that evening and the following Monday morning, they became concerned and checked his home, which they found unlocked, deputies say.
"We know he was an elderly gentleman, he did have a routine, he walked everywhere he went," said Captain Bobby Shuler, with the Sheriff's Office. "We just wanted to make sure... we've done a very thorough job of looking for him."
"He goes to the [Singleton] store and whenever I would come here if he wasn't home, he was under that tree [by the store]," Williams said.
Yellow ribbons can be seen at spots where Toomer frequented, including his home, Singleton's Feed & Grocery, and his church.
Corporal Richardson, who lives and works in the community, knows Toomer's routine well and was involved in the search Thursday.
"He comes out, takes his walk to the store," he said. "You can look [and see] this is his trail, he walks with a shuffle."
More than 30 people could be seen canvassing the tree line and woods along Cainhoy Road.
"I'm not surprised by the outpour of people looking for him and trying to find him and bring us closure," Williams said.
For this search, the Sheriff's Office requested local horse farms to canvass the woods.
"Certain spots are wet, a lot of deep holes, you've got the tree roots, the vines are everywhere," said Holly Noble, with Angel Winds Horse Sanctuary.
Noble's friend at H.O.P.E. Acres Rescue informed her about the search and the need for more horses. Having taken part in missing person searches in other states, like Texas, Noble volunteered right away.
"Anytime you can help anybody and give back, I think that's what this world should be about," she said.
Initially, more than 40 deputies searched trails and surrounding areas on foot and passed out fliers in hopes someone would recognize him and help get him back home.
A prayer vigil was held as the community hoped for word.
Toomer has difficulty walking and "shuffles" his feet as he walks, investigators have said.
"I just miss him," Williams said. "I love him, and I want him found in any way shape they find him. I just want him found so I can give him what he needs."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office at 843-719-4412 or Crime Stoppers at 843-554-1111.