Sheriff: Teams from out of state to aid in Bryan County search for missing woman

Local News

BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — The Bryan County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) continues its search for a woman missing for two weeks.

Karla Hillen, 58, was last seen the weekend before Thanksgiving in the Fort McAllister State Park area in Richmond Hill.

Hillen is described as a white woman with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She’s 5-foot-5 and 155 pounds, according to BCSO.

Her car was found in the park’s parking lot, but after combing through hours of surveillance camera footage, authorities have yet to be able to track down her exact location.

“Everything that we’ve been given so far and everything we have seen so far leads us to believe that she is probably still in that area,” Bryan County Sheriff Mark Crowe told reporters in a press conference Friday.

The sheriff was joined by Hillen’s family to provide an update on the search so far. Crowe said next week, out-of-state teams will be coming to the county to aid in the search.

Tuesday, and possibly into Wednesday, Crowe said seven K9 teams from South Carolina will be conducting a grid search of the wooded areas of Fort McAllister State Park. On Thursday, a team from Florida will survey marshy areas using an amphibious vehicle and dogs capable of searching water.

“Here, we are kind of at a standstill or a loss until these folks come in from South Carolina and Florida,” Crowe said.

Karla Hillen’s husband Jamie also spoke at Friday’s news conference. He said they’ve been a part of the Richmond Hill community for 20 years.

“As evidenced by the outpouring of support, Karla has helped thousands of people in our area,” Jamie Hillen said of his wife, who is a family counselor.

He explained that after working at Richmond Hill High School as a teacher, he recently accepted a job at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base. But his wife came back to the U.S. in late October to visit friends.

Weeks later, she went missing.

Karla Hillen’s vehicle was found at Fort McAllister State Park on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Jamie Hillen said she left her ID, cash and credit cards in the vehicle, only taking her car keys.

“None of this makes any sense to us,” he said. “Karla is diabetic, and we’ve wondered if an insulin imbalance may have affected her clear decision making.

“If anyone has any information about her whereabouts or clues to where she might have gone, please, please contact the sheriff’s office.”

Crowe said foul play is not suspected in this case. It’s believed Karla Hillen left on her own accord.

The sheriff laid out the following timeline of the search:

  • Nov. 20: The last known in-person sighting of Karla Hillen.
  • Nov. 21: Hillen’s vehicle was seen in the driveway of the residence she was staying. By noon, it was gone and it’s believed she then traveled to Fort McAllister State Park.
  • Nov. 23: Hillen was reported missing to BCSO around 7 p.m.
  • Nov. 24: Hillen’s vehicle was found around 3 p.m. at Fort MCallister State Park. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducted a hasty search with four wheelers and on foot.
  • Nov. 25: DNR continued searching until noon. BCSO then picked up the search.
  • Nov. 26: BCSO continued its search of Fort MCallister State Park on foot. They also opened up Hillen’s vehicle to search it (with permission from her family).
  • Nov. 27: Georgia State Patrol (GSP) sent out a helicopter to aid in the search. BCSO surveyed the area on foot and via boat.
  • Nov. 28: A K9 team from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office conducted an article search of the State Park to no avail.
  • Nov. 29: GSP received a “delayed hit” on a missing person alert. Authorities received information to believe Hillen was in the Atlanta area, but BCSO said the lead was unfounded.
  • Dec. 1: BCSO’s search continued.
  • Dec. 2: GSP’s helicopter searched the State Park via air, this time with a low and more thorough search. BCSO’s Marine Patrol returned to the water to search, and a K9 team from South Carolina conducted another hasty search.
  • Dec. 3: BCSO sent a team out to search the Savage Island area, where campers are located, to no avail.

Anyone with further information on Hillen’s whereabouts is asked to call BCSO at 912-756-3101.

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