UPDATE: 7/31/12 @ 10 p.m.
ELLIOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) – It's been a little more than a year since 20-year-old Nathan Barker from Olive Hill, Kentucky, vanished.
Investigators believed they might be close to finally cracking the case, but closure remains out of reach.
The mystery of what happened to Barker is something Carter County Sheriff Casey Brammell says he's desperate to solve.
"It's gotten just as personal for me as for the family,” Brammell said, “almost as personal."
On July 12, the 1-year anniversary of Barker’s disappearance, the family got an anonymous tip from someone on a pay phone that he was buried on property on Gallion Branch Road in Elliott County, Brammell said.
The sheriff says they went over that property with search dogs, who hit on Barker’s scent at one spot. A couple days later they came back with a different set of search dogs, who led them to the same location.
On Saturday they came with a backhoe and started digging.
The owner of that property, John Maddox, was arrested July 17 by Kentucky State Police and charged with operating a meth lab at his home.
Maddox gave consent to the sheriff for his property to be searched following the tip, Brammell said.
After three days of digging, the search came up empty. The search was called off Monday night.
"Every tip we've gotten so far, nothing's gone in the right direction for us,” Brammell said. “One day it will."
Maddox's girlfriend also lives on that property. She says she and her boyfriend have no connection to Nathan Barker.
“I was positive they weren't going to find anything," the girlfriend, who wanted to stay anonymous, said.
Sheriff Brammell says in a case that's haunted the Barker family and him for more than a year, it's a huge letdown that yet another lead has led to nothing.
"It hurts me just to call the family and say I got nothing new," he said.
Barker’s sister Kelly talked with us just after the 1-year anniversary of his disappearance.
"It's hard to watch your other family members suffer as well, not just yourself but when you watch your mom and your dad go through what my parents have went through, it's heart wrenching," she said.
The sheriff says he'd prefer future tips in the case to be made to the sheriff's department rather than to the family, as was the case in this instance.
Nathan Barker from Olive Hill, Kentucky was last seen driving away from a friends home along 3 Pine Road in the early morning hours of July 12th, 2011.
His car was found smashed near Grayson Lake just hours later but Barker was never found.
The Carter County Sheriff's Department is asking anyone with any information that could lead to Barker to call 606-474-5616.
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