Roy Haddock, 69, was last seen by family members at about 8:30 a.m. Monday. His son-in-law, Steve Conley, spotted his gray Toyota pickup truck Monday afternoon parked along McCormick Bridge Road with its hazard lights on, but Haddock was nowhere in sight.
His family said he often went to McCormick Bridge to feed homeless animals that live on the riverbank, and a friend said that Haddock told his wife he was trying to help a distressed cat on Monday.
"This is going to be tougher than I thought," Haddock told his wife on the phone, according to the family friend.
Haddock then had to hang up as he went down an embankment, the friend said.
A dive team found his body in the Lower Little River, Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said.
"He must have slipped, fell in the water," Conley, said.
Conley said his father-in-law owned a land-surveying business and always preached safety when in the woods.
"He'd be furious if it happened to one of us," he said. "So for it to happen to him is hard to believe."
About 50 Cumberland County deputies, State Highway Patrol troopers and first responders also searched the wooded areas along McCormick Bridge Road late Monday and early Tuesday. A Highway Patrol helicopter aided the search.
Haddock has high blood pressure, and his family told investigators that he exhibited signs of a minor stroke on Sunday night, including slurred speech, confusion and agitation.
Haddock, who was born and raised in Fayetteville, leaves behind three children and four grandchildren.
"The not knowing – that's the worst thing in the world," Conley said. "Last night was just brutal. It hurts. He's gone, but at least we know."
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