By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Holding out hope
Family, friends and authorities puzzled by college students disappearance
Above are the T-shirts family and friends are wearing and handing out. - photo by Photo by Rick Lott
Bryce Tarter
• Height: 6 feet
• Weight: 155 pounds
• Hair: Light brown
• Eyes: Blue
• Vehicle: White 2000 Nissan Frontier short bed crew cab with a Maine license plate, 944 7QD. The truck has a black grille guard and tinted windows. There is an Atlanta Falcons sticker and an Atlanta Braves logo on the rear window.
On the Web:

It’s been more than a month since 19-year-old Armstrong Atlantic State University student Bryce Tarter didn’t come home.

Since then, family, friends and a number of law enforcement agencies have scoured southeast Georgia looking for Tarter — all to no avail, so far.

“We’re continuing to talk to friends and relatives,” said Micah Ward, Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge at its Statesboro office, “somebody that might be able to give us a clue as to what could have happened.”

During a candlelight vigil for Tarter on Friday night at Goshen United Methodist Church, family members described Tarter as “a really, really sweet kid. He has a very mature attitude about not holding grudges, about doing to people as he would like them to do to him.”

Tarter lives with his aunt Tammie Griffin.

“He has so many manners. When you set him a breakfast, lunch or a dinner, he would say, ‘thank you, Aunt Tammie,” she said.

At the vigil, one of several held Friday night for Tarter, Griffin said she would complain from time to time about having no help around the house, with two dogs, eight cats, a husband, two kids and a full-time job. But she would get home, and Tarter’s pickup would be in the driveway.

“I would walk in, and my counters would be all clean,” she said.

The search
What family and friends do know is Tarter was at a party in Statesboro on the night of Jan. 30. According to friends, he went back to Armstrong where his truck, a white 2000 Nissan Frontier crew cab short bed with Maine plates and an Atlanta Falcons logo and an Atlanta Braves “A” logo on the rear window, was parked.

He was then headed home to Guyton at around 3:30 a.m. Family and friends believe he would have traveled down Highway 204 to Old River Road to get to Guyton.

But no trace of Tarter or his truck have been found. Air, ground and water searches have been conducted through areas authorities and family members believe Tarter might have been.

“It’s just a real mystery,” Ward said.

There have been ground searches and searches by helicopter and airplane. Sonar-equipped boats have gone across bodies of water Tarter is likely to have crossed on his anticipated paths.

“We’ve tried, through the interviews, to get an idea of what his lifestyle was,” Ward said, “who his friends were, what his interests where.

Through that, we’ve tried to determine what routes of travel he would have most likely taken, either going home or going to visit friends.

“We’ve covered every single one of those we can conceivably come up with. We’ve driven the roads. We’ve flown them. And we’ve not been able to find anything.”

Tarter’s cell phone apparently also cannot be tracked. The phone was not turned off until 1:37 p.m. on Jan. 31 but it cannot be tracked once it is off. Searchers also cannot find where he was when he sent his last text message.

No traces
Further hampering the search is the lack of financial activity — there have been no records of any money being withdrawn from Tarter’s bank account.

“There’s no bank activity. There’s no activity on the cell phone. Those are the kinds of things we think of with modern technology,” Ward said. “But when you don’t have that trail to follow, unfortunately, you’re looking for a needle in a haystack.”

The GBI is working with the AASU Police. Two GBI agents have been tasked to the case, and Ward has worked on it as well. He called it one of the most frustrating cases he’s ever worked.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Ward said. “We keep asking each other, ‘is there something we’re missing? Is there something we haven’t seen?’ Most of us involved in this are parents ourselves. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘if it were my child, would be I happy with what we’ve done today?’”

Nevertheless, the search goes on for Tarter as his family and friends anxiously await any word at all.

“I’m still holding out hope that we’ll turn up someone, somewhere, who will have a little bit of piece of information that they might not even think is important that will put us on the right track,” Ward said. “We’re looking for that piece of information that will be that piece of puzzle that puts it all together.”

Said Griffin: “He didn’t just drive off. He didn’t disappear, because he loved his family.”