What began as a search for a missing Effingham County man Sunday ended with the man found safe, and then criminally charged, Tuesday night.
Douglas Lee Morris, 42, of Guyton was arrested and charged with hindering law enforcement officers after failing to respond to multiple attempts the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office made to contact him, according to investigators.
“He knew, without a doubt, that we were trying to locate him to verify his well-being,” Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said.
Morris’ family reported him missing Sunday afternoon after finding a typewritten letter at his home. ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor did not release details of Morris’ letter, but stated it “led us to believe that he was potentially in a life-threatening situation.”
“If you want to run away, that’s fine. There’s nothing against the law about that,” Ehsanipoor said. “But the problem we had here is he received information that we were looking for him and we were trying to verify that nobody harmed him or he wasn’t harming anyone else or he didn’t harm himself.”
The ECSO tried to contact Morris several times through phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages, Ehsanipoor said. However, Morris responded to none of them.
“He even had text messages from us to his phone that we got a read receipt on, that we knew he read those things,” McDuffie said. “We were still expending resources, and all he had to do was pick up the phone and call us and say, ‘I’m OK. Leave me alone.’ End of story.”
Investigators determined that Morris traversed three states — Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — before returning to Effingham County on Tuesday night. He did not let the sheriff’s office know he had returned safely to the county, Ehsanipoor said.
The ECSO received information he was at his brother’s house on Interstate Circle. Deputies went to the home and spoke to Morris, who confirmed that he had written the letter.
“He said he didn’t mean it — he was joking,” Ehsanipoor said. “He claimed that he was fine, he appeared to be fine and, in some cases, didn’t appear to be taking it seriously at all.”
Along with law enforcement agencies in three states using resources to try to find Morris, McDuffie said, computer queries on him were being conducted through the GBI’s Georgia Crime Information Center. The ECSO also was in contact with Morris’ bank and phone company, and with Facebook’s law enforcement division.
“It affects a lot of people,” Ehsanipoor said.
“We don’t put a dollar figure on anybody’s safety. Safety is paramount,” McDuffie said. “But he let us spend thousands of taxpayer dollars in this county, knowing that he’s OK and nothing’s wrong. That’s taxpayer dollars that we just threw away, basically.”
Morris bonded out of the Effingham County Jail Wednesday. As a condition of his $2,400 bond, the ECSO asked that Morris be required to seek help for any personal or medical problem he is having.
“This way, we can make sure that he gets help if he needs help,” McDuffie said.