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Search Continues for Clues to Hiker’s Disappearance - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Search Continues for Clues to Hiker’s Disappearance

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This shoe was found during an April 20 search for clues to  Robert Fitzgerald's disappearance. This shoe was found during an April 20 search for clues to Robert Fitzgerald's disappearance.
Robert Fitzgerald was last seen in November 2012. Robert Fitzgerald was last seen in November 2012.

The search for a Staunton hiker missing on Shenandoah Mountain for more than five months is back to square one.

A weekend discovery of remains had sparked new hope for an end to the search for Robert Fitzgerald. Two bones found Saturday were sent to the medical examiner's office in Roanoke.

Monday afternoon, the Augusta County Sheriff's Office found out they are not human remains. Now, searchers are asking for help unearthing some new clue to find Fitzgerald.

Alan White holds out hope to find his fellow hiker.

"I would hate for that to happen to me - that I'd be out there lost in the woods and no closure for my family," White said.

White organized several volunteer searches to comb the woods around the Confederate Breastworks Trail looking for clues to the 60-year-old Staunton man's disappearance. They hadn't found anything until 40 searchers returned to Shenandoah Mountain Saturday.

"With the mass of people, we were able to at least find something," White said.

Search teams targeted an area where specially trained dogs picked up Fitzgerald's scent last fall, about two-and-a-half miles from a trailhead where the Augusta County Sheriff's Office found his abandoned car.

"You'd almost have to step on something to find it," said Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher.

Saturday's searchers found a running shoe and, nearby, a pair of bones. The medical examiner determined they're not human remains. 

The sheriff's office says a separate forensic team search Sunday uncovered no other clues.

"The woods are starting to fill up now with people hiking, camping, running. So, hopefully something will turn up," Fisher said. "We'd like to actually find the rest of the remains."

White believes Fitzgerald's friends and fellow hikers won't give up the hunt.

"The vast area, a lot of people gave up that we'll never find him. If we had kept that attitude, they're right," White said.

White says he may organize volunteers for another search. The sheriff's office has a DNA profile of Fitzgerald to compare to any remains found.

If you're hiking that area and find anything, call the sheriff's office at 540-245-5333.

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