18-year-old Jake Ziegler and 17-year-old Ray Pierce
CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -
Eleven days after a pair of teenage boys went missing, searches are still occurring in South Carolina as police weave through tips.
On Tuesday morning, agents from South Carolina's SLED agency were searching for Jake Ziegler, 18, and Ray Pierce, 17, near Great Falls in Chester County.
The families of the missing teens have hired a private investigators to work with them and help find them.
"We just need that next piece to give us another direction," said investigator Kevin Ryan. He does not believe the boys ran away or were abducted.
Ryan met with reporters Sunday in Blythewood, South Carolina, along with family members of Ziegler and Pierce. They chose that location because the last ping from a cell phone came from that area.
The families later returned home to Sherills Ford.
A search team canvassed areas near I-77 Sunday.
So far they say, there are no new leads.
Last week, investigators reviewed surveillance tape from the Belk store in South Carolina where a clerk said she was sure she sold clothing to two missing teens from Catawba County.
Police confirmed Friday afternoon that the video from the store on North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach did not show the missing teens.
Nearly 100 volunteers showed up in Conway to help with the search Thursday morning.
"My daughter goes to school with the boys and I know if it were her, I would definitely want everybody helping. So we figured this was more important than school today," said volunteer Susan Deviney.
Classmates at Bandys wore purple in their honor Thursday, and made posters and wrote messages on their cars so people would not give up hope of finding the two alive.
"It is scary and we're not sure how to react," said one student. Senior Hunter Laney said the goal of everyone is "To find them."
Crews are also combing an area between exists 41 and 49 on I-77 in Fairfield County.
That is where the last cell phone tower ping originated.
Wednesday, Fairfield County Chief Deputy Keith Lewis said all the information investigators have gathered leave them to believe the teens crashed along Interstate 77.
Bloodhounds and cadaver dogs are helping with the search in Fairfield County, but Jake's dad says he is still searching the Grand Strand-area. Several tips are still coming in, but so far, they haven't panned out.
"I went on a search last night around 11 o'clock into the area where somebody told me it was. It looked really promising. It was heavy brush. It took me 10 minutes to walk 15 feet throughout there...which would kind of stop a car," Zig Ziegler told local reporters.
The teens have been missing since early Saturday, when family members believe they were headed to the Myrtle Beach area.
"He would never do this to me. This is so uncharacteristic," said Jake's sister Jackie Ziegler.
Lewis believes the crash, if it happened, would have occurred along the interstate near mile marker 48. He says the search could be difficult because Ziegler and Pierce were driving in a green Pontiac.
Search crews looked along roadsides in Fairfield County, South Carolina looking for the teens again Thursday. Many fear the two were in an accident and are trapped in their car hoping someone will find them.
In Caldwell County, Amber Pennell knows exactly how that feels.
In August of 2008 she lost control of her truck and wound up in a deep ravine just off of Highway 321.
For five days search teams combed Caldwell County. It was just before dark on that fifth day that the back of her truck was spotted down the ravine, almost covered in kudzu.
She suffered broken bones and dehydration but was alive. "Miracles do happen, I'm proof of it," she said on Thursday.
Pennell said her message to the families of the missing teen is not to give up hope and to keep looking. "If they had stopped looking for me I wouldn't be here."
Pennell said the love of a family can sustain someone through a difficult time, such as what she experienced. "Knowing someone is looking for you, that's the only thing that keeps you alive."
The search intensified Wednesday morning, as the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office teamed up with SLED investigators to search along Interstate 77 with helicopters and ground crews, using four-wheelers.
Sue Ziegler, the mother of 18-year-old Jake Ziegler, says a team of volunteers also gathered at the public safety building on Main Street in Conway, South Carolina on Wednesday morning.
Ziegler said the family is urging people in the Charlotte area to volunteer in the search efforts. She says the family is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who can lead searchers to the teens.
Family members say they have reason to believe the missing teens may be in Conway but said they weren't releasing what information led them there.
"My son doesn't have much longer, if he's alive. I believe he is," said Zig Ziegler.
According to Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid, multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are now involved in the search.
Jackie says it is unlike her younger brother, Jake to not contact her.
"I understand the statistics and I understand that but this is not my brother. And there's no chance in hell he would go this far without contacting me," Ziegler said.
Ziegler says they are looking for a 2006 Green Pontiac G-6 with NC plates BDD-8844.
Jake Ziegler's family says that he was an avid user of Facebook and Twitter, but both online social media sites have been quiet since he started the trip.
Classmates and friends of the two teens have taken to social media in an effort to raise awareness of their disappearance.
They are tweeting photos and information and asking questions, using the hashtag #FindJakeandRay. Thousands of tweets have gone out asking for help to find them.