Lacking veteran present in Georgia

John Ruble, 38, disappeared from Waterville, Maine on August 23. Police found his Jeep Wrangler abandoned on I-95 near Dunn, NC, three days later. His family found him in Georgia. He went there from Dunn.

From Eliot Duke
Dunn daily record

DUNN – A family looking for a missing loved one found the happy ending they had hoped for.

John Gregory Ruble, a 38-year-old Army veteran suffering from dementia and Huntington’s disease, disappeared from his hometown of Maine on August 23. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol found his abandoned Jeep Wrangler three days later on Interstate 95 near the Long Branch exit (Exit 71) in Dunn.

Circle K staff near the Rubles Jeep site remembered seeing him in the store at the time he disappeared, but the police and family had nothing else to do.

A chance call from an unknown number to a family business made for the real first break.

“Someone saw a phone number in his mother’s office,” said family friend Billy Pfaff, a longtime private investigator with decades of experience. “The caller said their name, but we had problems getting the caller ID. We finally got the number and called her. “

John’s sister Kate called the number and managed to speak to her brother. Without knowing Rubel’s situation or mindset, his family members began to ask him basic questions about his health and location. Pfaff managed to use this information and develop a search area with specific landmarks of where Ruble could be. Pfaff and his girlfriend, Ruble’s cousin, hopped back in the car and drove from Florida to Georgia after spending the past week in Dunn looking for clues and distributing hundreds of leaflets.

“We didn’t know why he left,” said Pfaff. “I came up with seven locations and started checking addresses. We wanted to be careful. He didn’t know me and we didn’t want him to run again. “

Pfaff arrived in Georgia Monday night and stopped at a local store to pick up some supplies after walking away from home in such a hurry. A concerned priest went outside while his girlfriend waited at the cash register. As he walked out the door, a face looked at him.

“He was standing in front of me,” said Pfaff. “He looked in bad shape. I didn’t want him to run because he didn’t know who I was. I followed him and changed constantly. I was afraid that he might run away if he thought someone would follow him. “

Pfaff kept an eye on Ruble for a while, watching him wander aimlessly and hoping that he did not flee into the forest. Finally, Pfaff decided not to lose sight of Ruble any longer and approached the disheveled man his family hadn’t seen in three weeks.

“I went to him and said I was looking for him for a long time,” said Pfaff. “I didn’t want to lose him. My girlfriend is his cousin and he recognized her. “

It turned out that Ruble had run more than 300 miles from Dunn to Georgia after his jeep broke down. Ruble tried to take truck drivers to Circle K but couldn’t find a buyer, so he decided to walk. He lost his cell phone on the way and managed to buy a cheap replacement device, but couldn’t remember any of his contacts. He found out where his mother worked and made the phone call that eventually led the family to his whereabouts.

The three week trip took its toll on the veteran.

“I saw him walking in circles,” said Pfaff. “His ankles, calves, and legs were so swollen from walking. He lost eight toenails. He’s been running in circles for weeks. He even got a police escort near the state border. “

Pfaff credits Detective Chad Garvin with the Dunn Police Department for being instrumental in bringing Rubles home. The ability to ping Ruble’s phone provided vital information about his location that helped narrow down the search.

“To be honest, I didn’t do anything,” said Garvin. “I just did what any investigator would do, and I did the best I could. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. I believe they found John by the grace of God. I took it as if I wanted to be treated when I was in their situation. “

Garvin took the case on September 10 and spent much of the Labor Day weekend on the phone speaking to various law enforcement agencies involved in the search.

“When I got involved on Friday morning, they were already here and distributed 700 leaflets,” Garvin said of Pfaff. “They had already contacted each other and had a story in the newspaper. They ran out of flyers and printed out more. I woke up Tuesday morning with a text message saying they found John. Again, I don’t think I’ve done anything special. “
Pfaff was of a different opinion.

“I’ve traveled all over the world working with all kinds of law enforcement agencies,” Pfaff said. “I’ve never met someone like Chad before. He is a hero and a great asset to this community. “

Ruble is reunited with his family and on his way to a Virginia hospital near his sister, where loved ones plan to provide him with the help he needs.

The probability of finding rubles decreased day by day. Thanks to the concerted efforts of law enforcement and the love of a family, Ruble found his family again after being missing for more than three weeks and 1,000 miles from home. The people involved attributed a higher power to making the mini-miracle happen.

Given the likelihood of such an ending, it can be difficult to argue.