Bath County sheriff compares Michael Brown search to previous, high-profile manhunt

Sheriff Robert Plecker gave his takeaways from the Beacher Hackney case and how they may apply to the hunt for Brown

BATH COUNTY, Va. – The search continued Tuesday for fugitive Michael Brown, and, for perspective, 10 News turned to Bath County Sheriff Robert Plecker, whose department dealt with a high-profile search of its own a decade ago.

Plecker made comparisons between the manhunt for Beacher Hackney and the search for Brown.

The case was considered cold for years and was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” on Oct. 10, 2009.

The rural beauty of Bath County was shaken in March 2009 when investigators said 59-year-old Beacher Hackney shot and killed two of his bosses at the Homestead Resort before disappearing into the night, sparking a nationwide search.

Plecker was a deputy then.

“I feel for Franklin County, and Roanoke city and county,” Plecker said.

He still thinks about the toll the search for Hackney took on his department.

“We actually did a lot of building searches, door to door, all night, through the day, aerial searches with the helicopters, cadaver dogs. We spent a lot of money, a lot of man-hours in that search,” he said.

Locally, deputies mostly focused their search on a 500-yard perimeter around the resort, following an FBI profile. The choices they made show how difficult it is to guess where fugitives might be, Plecker said.

During the search, investigators said Hackney had help from family or friends; however, they later learned that he didn’t.

They took in every tip, asking for help in other states.

At one point, the sheriff at the time, Larry Norfleet, said he didn’t think the fugitive was in Bath County.

They later learned that he was.

In 2012, three-and-a-half years after the murders, hunters found Hackney’s remains about 8 miles from the resort.

“Could we have broadened our search? Probably,” Plecker said. “We just didn’t know, but hindsight now, if I was doing it again we would go out way out, way out.”

In both cases, there’s the belief that these men have been able to survive alone in the woods.

“I don’t believe that,” Plecker said. “You might live for a while but when it’s 0 degrees and you start getting hungry and you’re tired, you’re going to go somewhere.”

Plecker said all the departments involved in the search for Brown need to stay strong.

“I know what these agencies are going through now, doing that. The takeaway is, don’t quit. Exhaust every avenue you got -- friends, family, locations that he was known to be at,” he said. “Don’t give up. I know you’re not. You’ll get him.”

He believes a reward can be helpful. There’s one for $10,000 for help finding Brown.