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Sheriff: Vehicle of missing Middle Ga. man found, crews discover remains nearby

{p}Don Hightower/Source: Johnson County Sheriff's Office{/p}

Don Hightower/Source: Johnson County Sheriff's Office

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ga. (WGXA) - Human remains found in Johnson County may be connected to the case of a man missing for nearly a year.

In a post to Facebook, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office says a deer hunter found a vehicle matching that of Don Hightower, first reported missing on October 30, 2021. The Sheriff's Office says the vehicle was discovered by the hunter Friday around 5 p.m. off of Highway 319 in eastern Laurens County.

Once investigators learned of the discovery, they were able to match the license plate on the vehicle to that of Hightower. Multiple agencies started searching at first light Saturday and eventually discovered human remains. They are being taken to the state crime lab for identification.

Hightower was last seen on October 30, 2021, after spending part of the day with his family watching the Georgia vs. Florida college football game. By the end of the day, no one knew where he was.

At the time of his disappearance, family members told WGXA News Hightower was watching the football game at his son's house. Afterward, he went to his sisters. At his sister's house, he said that he started feeling tired. Then he left to go home. His family said he only lived a mile down the road and she asked that he call her when he makes it home. Hightower's family said that never happened.

In the days following his disappearance, Hightower's family told WGXA News his family noticed that he was feeling a little off in the days prior to him going missing. They took him to a hospital where he was checked out and some blood tests were done. His family said that he was doing better in the few days leading up to him going missing.

The search for Hightower first went regional and then national, with multiple agencies in several states searching for him.

By the Spring of 2022, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office told WGXA News they had not stopped searching, but their requests for help from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been denied.

Following those statements by the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, the GBI issued the following statement:

For months, the GBI has assisted the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office with efforts to find missing person Donald Hightower. Since Mr. Hightower was reported missing, our agents and analysts have helped with multiple searches, search warrants, computer forensics, intelligence gathering and sharing, numerous interviews, and have provided continuous case consultation to the Sheriff’s Office investigation. We will continue to work with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in this case so that Mr. Hightower’s family can get the answers that they deserve.

Following Saturday's discovery of Hightower's vehicle and human remains, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office says they will release additional details at a later time,

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The investigation is ongoing.

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