Waffle House employees remember missing Hardeeville man found dead

Local News

A nearly two-week search for a missing Hardeeville man has come to a sad end in the woods.

Police found 70-year-old Eugene Leffler in the wooded area between Ulman Street and I-95 Tuesday afternoon.

Employees at the Waffle House off Exit 5 in Hardeeville say Leffler was a frequent customer. 

“Well it’s Mr. Gene and he would come in every morning, not necessarily here, he liked to go from here and Exit 8’s Waffle House… and Ridgeland,” Deborah Toomer told News 3. “He would come in early… sometimes he’d be here at 5:30, 6 o’clock, and he always came in and got his coffee.”

Leffler, a stage three cancer patient, left his home on Sunset Circle walking to get a pack of cigarettes at the gas station around 9 p.m. November 21, the day before Thanksgiving.

Police said they searched for him for weeks.

“Searching the area, checking with businesses, the whole nine yards. We had our officers do the search of the woods with personnel and also with dogs,” Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward told News 3.

On Tuesday, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter spotted Leffler’s body in the bushes off Ulman Street, a wooded area police had searched twice before.

“We don’t know if he was there the whole time and we just missed him, or he came back to that area trying to get back home later on,” Woodward said. 

Even to people who saw Leffler nearly every day, he never shared his diagnosis.

“He was pretty quiet about that,” Toomer said. “We didn’t learn that he had stage three cancer until we… found out from the news.”

The employees say he was a veteran who did share stories of his service days.

“Him and his wife were in the military together, and his wife was a nurse,” Mary Daniels said. 

“That’s what made him happy… his coffee and tea, and his Waffle House,” Toomer said.

The Jasper County Deputy Coroner tells News 3 they are still working on an autopsy to determine a cause of death, and how long Leffler was dead before he was found.

News 3 will bring you further updates.

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