BUENA VISTA, Va. (WFXR) – The family of Chad Austin is now offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads directly to Chad.
It’s been a tough four months for the Austin Family.
“Early on in May you’re thinking oh, he’s going to be found,” Chad’s Mom, Ellen said.
“Now that it’s gotten into September and you realize more time has elapsed now. We’re willing and desperate to try anything and see if it would help.”
Chad Austin has been missing since May 28, 2019. He was last seen in the Panther Falls area of Amherst County on May 27.
Lt. J.W. Miller is leading the investigation into finding Chad Austin. He is working with a task force on the case.
“If Chad is okay we want to know that. If not, then we want to be able to identify those responsible for why he might not be okay,” Lt. Miller said.
According to Lt. Miller, two hikers were the last to see Chad alive.
“It was these two hikers who reported Chad’s vehicle to authorities, including to our 911 center, subsequently to the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office. These two hikers have been cooperating with our investigation and everyone we have spoken to has cooperated with the investigation,” Lt. Miller said.
A hike wasn’t uncommon for Chad, who loved being outdoors. He hiked at Panther Falls frequently.
“Chad is a fun loving kind of guy. Kind of free spirited in a way, loves sports, loves hiking, fishing, camping outdoors. He loves outdoors and he loves animals,” Ellen Austin said.
The reason Chad’s parents and Lt. Miller feel he isn’t simply missing is because he left his dog secured in a way they feel shows he intended on coming back to get him. When investigators found Gunner he was locked inside Chad’s car and the car was out of gas.
“We just feel like there would be no way he would leave him without thinking that he would come back,” Ellen Austin said.
Chad and his dog were incredibly close. Chad’s Dad, David, said he would never leave Gunner behind. He loved his dog.
“Gunner would go everywhere with him. They’d come in the house and Chad would get him a drink. He’d have to get the dog a drink. If Chad wanted something to eat he’d get the dog something to eat out of the refrigerator,” David Austin said. He goes on to say, “So, it’s just things like that. He loved that dog. I just can’t figure out why he would lock that dog in the car. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Why Gunner was left behind is one of the many questions Lt. Miller wants answered. He is investigating all the possibilities of the case.
“If there is a nefarious activity related to this we will want to identify that. If he’s just in fact missing and walked away, we want to know about his whereabouts. I mean, Chad was a member of the Buena Vista community so we care about each of our citizens so we’d like to know where he is as well. If Chad is okay, we want to know that. If not, then we want to be able to identify those responsible for why he might not be okay,” Lt. Miller said.
Lt. Miller says he doesn’t believe Chad would walk away.
“I think it was recently reported that Chad may have some active criminal charges, but there were negotiations with Chad’s attorney and the Commonwealth Attorney about resolving those issues, prohibiting Chad from walking away for those reasons,” Lt. Miller said.
Chad was also a big family man. His parents said they spoke to him daily before he disappeared. He wouldn’t just up and leave without telling them.
It’s why they’re making another strong plea for help finding their son.
“Nobody really understands what people are going through until one of their kids is missing. It’s been hard on us,” David Austin said.
“We believe in God. We believe in protection over him and we have faith that somebody out there somewhere knows something that will hopefully lead us to him,” Ellen Austin said.
Lt. Miller is pleading for anyone who was in the Panther Falls area around Memorial Day 2019 or the day after to call him. It doesn’t matter if they spoke to Chad or not.
“We definitely would like to talk to them. If there are any photos with individuals in the background we would like to take a look at those,” Lt. Miller said.
If you feel you have any information that may help investigators find Chad Austin you are asked to call the Buena Vista Police Department. The number to call is (540)-261-6171. Callers can remain anonymous.
Chad’s family has started a “Bring Chad Austin Home” Facebook page. If you would like to follow that page CLICK HERE.