By IVY HERRON
The suicide attempt of an emotionally distraught man Wednesday evening caused a massive manhunt in southern Clay County involving three K-9 units and numerous law enforcement and emergency personnel from surrounding counties.
"This, is why our department is actively seeking to create a K-9 unit," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said Thursday. "It's not that we won't call in back-up agencies during this type of emergency, but having our own K-9 unit will cut down our response time."
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, the 47-year-old man from Martinsville, Ind., disappeared from his factory job in Indianapolis.
Authorities say he had become emotionally distraught over the recent suicide of a close friend and his divorce. After he was missing for a couple of hours, a family member contacted the Morgan County Sheriff's Department to request that deputies perform a welfare check of the man's residence. He was not found.
The Owen County Sheriff's Department was contacted when the subject's family provided information that they believed he was in the Cunot area. Both law enforcement agencies and members of the man's family were searching for him in both counties.
Around 5:30 p.m., the man -- apparently seeking help -- called his ex-wife.
"He said he had cut his wrists, he was in a wooded area and was too weak to crawl out to find help," Heaton said. "We became involved with the case around 7 p.m., when (a family member located) his truck in the area near the intersection of U.S. 42 and C.R. 300 East."
Clay County and Owen County sheriffs' deputies and members of the Indiana State Police were dispatched to the scene, where they located a bloody knife on the console of the man's truck.
His ex-wife provided information that he could be in possession of one of several firearms he owned and was suicidal, so authorities blocked off the roadway to ensure public safety when they heard what was thought to be a gunshot in the nearby cornfield and woods.
"We set up a perimeter to ensure that the public and emergency personnel would be safe until the dogs arrived," Heaton said. "Members of Clay County Search and Rescue and Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Department were staged at the Jackson Township fire house, ready to respond with a search party when needed. A thermal imaging camera was provided by (Van Buren's Assistant Fire Chief) Todd McVey to look for a heat source during the dog's search."
Because of the extreme heat, and not knowing how long the search would take, K-9 units from Putnamville, Owen County and Cloverdale were called in to perform the search.
"We had also requested helicopters out of Indianapolis to join in the search, but fortunately there was a quick end to the search and they weren't needed," he said. "Once the dogs went into the cornfield, the missing man was located in about 15 minutes. But there was a response time delay because we had to set up our position and then wait for the K-9 units to arrive."
Once the scene was secure, Trans-Care personnel attended to the attempted suicide victim's injuries and transported him to St. Vincent Clay Hospital shortly after 10:30 p.m.
"He sustained minor lacerations to his wrists. He said had taken several different types of medication with alcohol, but toxicology reports are not back to either confirm or deny that statement," the sheriff said. "He was admitted to the hospital on a 24-hour immediate detention order (IDO) for observation."
Officers can request an IDO if a patient is a danger to themselves or others without having a judge's approval. Once 24 hours has elapsed, the hospital can determine if a patient requires a longer observation time.
An emergency detention order (EDO) is a judge-, doctor- or family-approved 72-hour detention/observation period at a stress-unit facility like Regional Hospital, in Terre Haute, or psychiatric facility like the Hamilton Center. A patient will undergo a psychiatric evaluation during the 72-hour period.Heaton said the sheriff's department will seek an EDO for the man and will turn his case file over to the Clay County Prosecutor's Office to determine if there are any possible charges to file in the matter.
The department could seek restitution for the cost of manpower to perform the manhunt.
"It is our responsibility to find individuals (in an emotionally disturbed mental state) and get them medical assistance. That is the humane thing, the right thing to do," Heaton said. "But this took a lot of manpower from several different departments, and that cost has to come from somewhere."