Search for missing Cedar Falls man ends successfully - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Search for missing Cedar Falls man ends successfully

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- A Cedar Falls man is home safe Thursday night, following a two day search by local police. On Tuesday, family members reported 83 year-old Merlin McCabe missing when he didn't return home from running errands. A Quad Cities State Trooper found him in his Jeep early Thursday morning.

You can imagine how much stress and worry his family has endured in the last few days. While they're incredibly thankful for the community's support -- and to the media for alerting people to McCabe's disappearance -- from here on out, they're dealing with a very private matter.

We turned to Cedar Falls Police Chief Jeff Olson to learn how local and national alert systems work to bring people like McCabe home, and why it took so long to find him.

"You get missing persons, you get them regularly actually. But you don't get them very often when they're traveling across state lines," noted Olson.

It's common for people to become forgetful with age, but McCabe had never shown sign of serious problems. Which is why Cedar Falls police started their search locally, instead of going right to a national alert.

"If we think someone's within the Black Hawk County area, or close by, we can just do an attempt to locate in this small geographic area," explained Olson.

As a little more time passes, police entered McCabe's name into the National Crime Information Center. That's how they learned an officer issued McCabe a speeding ticket -- more than 150 miles from home.

"It did two things. One, we realized he'd traveled quite a distance, and that was somewhat alarming. And then we sent out, what I'm calling a teletype to all the law enforcement agencies along I-80 and Hwy 30," said Olson.

From there, they tried tracing his cell phone -- but it was turned off. They also monitored his credit card activity, and found a purchase Wednesday in Chicago.

"So we know where he stopped for gas. But unfortunately, those notices usually come a few hours after the charge is made. So you can't get someone to the scene right away, but you at least have a path of where he's headed," Olson said.

With police, deputies, and state patrol along 1-80 and 1-85 on alert, McCabe was finally found...safe.

"The system worked real well, just like it's supposed to. He ran out of gas, a state trooper came up upon him, and it came back as a missing person. And right away we were notified, the family was notified, and they were able to go pick him up."

When asked if police could have entered McCabe's name into the NCIC system earlier -- and potentially ended the search when an officer pulled him over Tuesday night -- Olson said yes, they could have. But there are regulations for entering a missing person, and since family members initially indicated McCabe did not have a history of wandering, and thought he might be close to home, they started the investigation locally.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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