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Durham family believes body found may be missing man

Posted September 5, 2009
Updated September 6, 2009

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— Durham police said a decomposed body was found in a wooded area behind 16 Madrid Lane on Saturday evening.

A resident walking in the area found the body and alerted police around 6:30 p.m.

Police are treating the situation as a death investigation.

The body has not been identified. An autopsy has been ordered.

Durham family believes body found may be missing man Police report body found in Durham

Neighbor Heather Hunt said she and other neighbors had detected a foul smell a few weeks ago, but never imagined it was a body.

“We did notice a couple days ago a scent was a little strong. We didn’t know where it was coming from. It would come and go,” Hunt said Sunday.

Hunt's dog had recently killed a possum, so she believed the smell could be from a dead animal.

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Pate at 560-4440, or Crime Stoppers at 683-1200. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

Reginald Charles, the nephew of a missing Durham man, said police told him on the scene that the body had clothes  matching those of his missing uncle, 76-year-old John Henry Cheatham.

Cheatham, who was reported missing nearly a month ago, was last seen wearing a gray T-shirt with “ARMY” on the front, khaki pants, a black baseball cap with “ARMY” on it and khaki athletic shoes.

Cheatham went missing from his home on Casa Street – two streets away from Madrid Lane. He suffers from Alzheimer's disease, his wife, Connie Cheatham has said.

A Silver Alert, which quickly notifies the public about missing endangered adults, remains in effect for Cheatham.

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  • lode3xpo Sep 7, 2009

    Condolences to the family and friends, if this is confirmed. A tragic loss.

    As a veteran myself, I am saddened by the loss of a hero who served his nation. Being located ~.10 miles from his home address is well within the research on this type of walk-away, based on past walkaway incidents. As the nation ages, we need to be prepared.

    We need to change such outcomes, what can we learn from this tragedy and ensure local SAR teams are called upon to support a lost person incident that have up to date knowledge of tactics, training and research in this area of specialization. Time is the critical factor here and search is an emergency. What can we do in NC to be more prepared and ensure all available resources are called upon without delay?

    There are three SAR teams registered with the NC SAR Advisory Council in the Durham/Wake County area, with several other teams from the mountains to the coast, including SAR K9s. We need to get these professional teams engaged.