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Police scour park in soldier's disappearance

Posted February 12, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Police using tracking dogs searched a city park for about an hour Thursday, looking for clues to the disappearance of a Fort Bragg soldier.

Spc. Joseph E. Putnam, 22, was last seen at a BP station at 1208 Bragg Blvd. at about 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, police said. He was intoxicated after a night of drinking with friends at Sharky's Cabaret a few blocks from the gas station, police said.

Investigators said their Thursday morning search of Mazarick Park, which is across the street from the BP station, turned up no leads.

"We are looking at this right now as a suspicious missing person's case," said Theresa Chance, spokeswoman for the Fayetteville Police Department.

Joseph Putnam's debit card used Man who used missing soldier's debit card sought

Putnam's debit card was used twice later Tuesday to withdraw money from automated teller machines at two Fayetteville convenience stores, police said. Investigators haven't released the location of the first store, but they said it was used at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at a Kangaroo store at 1764 Ireland Drive.

The man who used the card at the Kangaroo was described as a black man in his late 30s to early 40s, about 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds. He was bald, had a close-trimmed beard and had recent burn marks to his abdomen. He was wearing a white T-shirt with blue exercise pants.

"This person spent a few minutes in the store," Chance said. "He was actually pulling up (his shirt) and showing his burn marks. He was conversing."

Police said they have a security video from the store showing the man they have called a "person of interest" in the case, but they hadn't released the video to the media by Thursday evening.

Putnam is assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team. He was assigned to Fort Bragg in September and had recently graduated from the 82nd Airborne's jump school.

Members of Putnam's unit called his mother in Arkansas Tuesday morning and asked if she knew of his whereabouts, and she immediately called police.

"I'm fighting the urge to get on the airplane and (come) out and (walk) door to door to door," his mother, Angela Stanford, said in a telephone interview.

Stanford said her son is the third generation of his family to serve in the military.

"All he ever wanted to do is be in the military. He wanted to be in airborne. He wants to be in Special Forces," she said.

Putnam was described as a white man, 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 150 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. He has tattoos of a cow skull and the words “Cowboy Up” on his left shoulder. He was wearing a white T-shirt, Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots.

"(He is known as a) very good soldier, very nice," Chance said. "There is no reason at all to suspect he would have just left and gone (absent without leave) or anything like that. That's why we're treating this as suspicious."

Sharky's Cabaret has been a trouble spot for soldiers in recent months. Sgt. Sergio Sanchez was shot to death near the club in April, and four men have been charged with murder and robbery in the case.

Fort Bragg gives newcomers a list of neighborhoods and businesses that are off-limits to soldiers because of high crime. Sharky's Cabaret isn't one of the nightclubs on the list.

Anyone with information on Putnam’s whereabouts or the identity of the man who used his debit card is asked to call the Fayetteville Police Department at 910-433-1856 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • GaFan1 Feb 12, 2009

    The bar where he was drinking (Sharkey's), that has always been a not so good area.

  • mikesangel1123 Feb 12, 2009

    My prayers for his family. I have two sons (small children) and it's heartbreaking to think they could be taken away from me at such a young age and under a suspicious circumstance. My heart goes out to the family.

  • Justabum Feb 12, 2009

    The BP isn't anywhere near the post or along the path from the club to post. Considering the distance from the club to the post I doubt that he was walking back.

  • Mom of two Feb 12, 2009

    I doubt it would be a hate crime. I hope they find him. I hate to see things like this.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Feb 12, 2009

    "They say the suspect had on a t-shirt so how do they know he had burns on his stomach."

    Didn't read the article, did you, Tired of thoughtlessness?

    When I commented, the article was brief and had no remarks about his lifting up his shirt.

  • montyburns Feb 12, 2009


    My point is that you are innocent until proven guilty, and just because you have something that belongs to someone who disappeared does not mean you had anything to do with the disappearance.

    The facts will come out, but you've jumped to conclusions way too early. I prefer to wait to jump to conclusions when I have more information.

    yeah "black on white crime" that kinda stuff only happens on tv right.

  • oldrebel Feb 12, 2009

    I so hope this turns out to be better ending than it appears to be heading toward. The Mother's anguish at being so far away and unable to do anything has to be unbearable.

  • Evil 1 Feb 12, 2009

    "My point is that you are innocent until proven guilty"

    Did you just make that up. That's deep.
    Perhaps this is a case of you have your opinion and I have mine. Don't feel the need to straighten me out.

  • ghimmy51 Feb 12, 2009

    It's clear this soldier was walking back to post. The BP is toward post from the club. I'd like to think the Fayetteville police walked that way too, but I bet they didn't. If this was a mugging there are a limited number of places to look. I think I'll try it.

  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 12, 2009

    i hate people that like to argue all the points. let's face it. people who show up in convenience stores with someone else's debit card usually don't buy it off the street.

    this is a sad event and we all know the outcome here. time will tell.