Carroll County, GA (WJBF) – A Georgia man disappeared around the flood of 2009. But while trying to avoid those murky waters to tend to his parents’ estate, he went missing.
“Kind of like older brother energy, just kind of messing with you and aggravating you, but playing with you at the same time,” said Amanda Rickles, who resides in the Atlanta area.
Despite his position as uncle on their family tree, Amanda Rickles said Brian Wehrle could have been her best friend too since they were close in age.
“We’d go swimming in the lake at my grandparent’s house, which now I wouldn’t advise people to do, Lake Carroll,” Rickles recalled. “It was like a crab apple tree growing there by the lake. He’d grab them and just throw them at us.”
Her fondest memories are at her grandparent’s house. Which was also her mom and uncle Brian’s parent’s home in Carrollton, Georgia. It’s a city located about an hour from Atlanta. Rickles said the two parent home with nine kids made for a typical Catholic family.
Brian Wehrle’s sister, Anita Gay, recounted their childhood. “He was the middle of my three younger brothers. But he was funny and witty.”
Born in 1970, Brian Wehrle could be described as clever and a jokester. He graduated from Carrollton High School and went on to the University of West Georgia. Around that time, he met and became close with his sister Anita’s husband, Spencer Gay.
“He had taken, I think it was geology classes. He really liked that a lot. And he had a bowling class. He liked that too,” Spencer Gay refelcted.
Wehrle’s family also told Cold Case Project he had a big heart and was very adventurous. So, when his brother Chris needed help with his land surveying company in Atlanta, he left college to become an employee at Due West Surveying, Inc. And just as his adult life took off, Brian’s life changed in a big way.
“Jeffery fit in perfectly with the family,” his brother-in-law told us.
Brian came out to his family and after some time, met Jeffery Rolsten, who became his long time partner.
We asked Rickles, “And you said that this was another uncle for you?”
“Jeff had been in my life for a very long time,” she said.
The two lived in the Virginia Highland area of Atlanta in a cottage on Morningside Drive. Jeffery worked for Bell South, which was later bought out by AT&T. As the two made their life together, they eventually were faced with taking care of their parents. It was a task that would call Brian to leave his brother’s company and spend time between his fast paced life in Atlanta and the college-town of Carrollton.
“He was close to my mother. They liked to watch movies, listen to music, they both liked good food. I think it came naturally to him,” said Anita Gay.
After the patriarch of the family died, Anita Gay said the siblings decided to place their mother in a personal care home. But Brian was tasked with being his mother’s guardian and conservator. Brian also took care of the Crescent Drive home he grew up in with some help from his siblings. On September 24, 2009, he had to go to the Carroll County courthouse to sign financial paperwork on his mother’s million dollar estate. He left at the beginning of the week despite what the National Weather Service describes as the catastrophic Atlanta flood of 2009. The trip should have taken around one hour. But, it took at least four times that trying to avoid high water.
We asked, “Did you talk to him when he first got to town?”
“I talked to him after he had been cutting grass the next day when he was taking a break and going to Taco Bell,” Rickles said.
That evening, he made a trip to the Gay family home on Oak Drive to use their computer.
“He had told us while he was at our house that he was worried about getting home, how he was going to get home. So, he was going to go to Walmart or somewhere and try to buy a topagraphical map,” Spencer Gay explained.
He went back to his parent’s home. And that night a neighbor reported seeing someone in the garage. But the next day, his September 24th court date, Brian Wehrle was a no show. His sister Anita got a call from a friend who knew her brother was on the docket.
She said, “At that point, I started calling him.”
Gay then went to their parents’ home. Her brother wasn’t there. But a lot of his personal items such as his overnight bag and medicine were left. What was gone was their mother’s car that Brian drove, a 1992, Light Blue, 4-Door, Buick LeSabre.
“I know for a fact his cell phone was there. There was money there. There was cash,” she said.
“I think one of the people who was actually reporting him missing was Brian’s partner who lived in Atlanta, Jeff. I do remember him coming to the police department one day and talking to Detective Johnson. He seemed like a real nice guy. Nothing stuck out,” said Captain Shannon Cantrell with Carrollton Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division. He remembers Brian Wehrle’s case when it first happened back in 2009, investigated then by Detective Tony Johnson. He said the city has few missing people that his department can’t find after a few hours or a day. He says violent crimes are low.
While Wehrle arrived to town during the flood, which breeched the dam at Lake Carroll near the family home and even shut down I-20, his loved ones contend that weather didn’t cause his disappearance. And their feeling that there was something more to this case solidified when his car showed up two months later abandoned in a neighborhood in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“The tag on the vehicle was actually a stolen Tennessee tag. It did not belong on the car anyhow. Then when they ran the VIN number for the car, it reported as being a missing person from us,” Captain Cantrell explained.
The real, Georgia tags that belonged on the car were not with it. Instead, Cold Case Project’s media partner, The Fall Line Podcast, discovered from a source the tag had been run by police in another Georgia county one month after the disappearance.
“We reached out to Coweta County 911 and the problem is with it being that far back and purging records and keeping up with stuff, they were not able to determine, they knew it was ran through that agency, through Coweta County Sheriff’s Office So, it was a sheriff’s deputy that ran it. But we don’t know where the car was at when the tag was ran,” Captain Cantrell said adding they also did not know who the deputy was that ran the plates.
Inside the car, police found that receipt for Taco Bell, a book, a container with change and even the car keys and fingerprints, but none of them were identifiable enough to catch the culprit. Cantrell said the department also analyzed cell phone data, home phone records, placed Brian’s information into statewide missing person systems and he’s recorded with the FBI. And at the Crescent Drive home, there was no forced entry and Brian, who had a pacemaker, severe arthritis, narcolepsy and insomnia left all of his medication at home. In fact, family members report the bed covers were turned down as if he was about to get in, but didn’t.
We asked, “We learned that Brian cut the grass because of all the rain. His family says he wasn’t much of a drinker. But then his brother Terry comes, knowing his brother is missing, begins to clean the yard up and then he drinks the beers. Did that stick out to you as something strange that someone would go behind someone with cleaning the yard?”
“I wasn’t sure exactly if we could narrow down a time frame of when Terry was there. Like, if he was there the same day that Brian was cutting the grass or if he had been there before drinking the beer doing some work of his own,” Cantrell said.
More than five years after Wehrle’s disappearance, investigators brought three dogs that specialize in missing persons and missing bodies to his parent’s home. The canines searched the entire property and all three dogs were alerted to a spot here at the boathouse.
“Contact the GBI and get them in touch with people who actually had the skills and maybe the tools to do that and we scheduled a day to go back out and serve a search warrant and made a dig.
And what did you find?
“Didn’t find anything as far as the dig goes. Didn’t find any bones or anything,” Cantrell said.
Rickles has already started crowdsourcing for a billboard to go up in Carrollton in hopes of reminding people that her uncle is still missing. With any luck, there will be additional dollars for a private investigator.
“It’s just a hole that will always be there. And at this point you kind of start to accept it’s just going to be a big question mark for the rest of our lives.”
Brian’s partner Jeffery died with out ever knowing what happened. Wehrle would be 53 now. His last description at age 39 was a white man, 5′ 7″ and 140 pounds with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Anyone with any information about the disappearance of Brian Wehrle should contact the Carrollton Police Department at 770-834-4451. You can also leave a tip on the department’s website or via its app.
A GoFundMe has also been set up HERE.