Searchers have marked off an area on land in rural Cherokee County as they look for the remains of a missing NSU student Thursday morning. Teams with ground penetrating radar are searching to see if the body of Stephen Adams was buried in a rural area near Keys, south of Tahlequah.
Investigators are cautiously optimistic, but this is one of the more encouraging leads in the nearly ten year old mystery. A recent tip led investigators to property near Keys, which has a different owner than it did when Adams disappeared. The search team is using ground penetrating radar to see if Adams body is buried here.
"A person gave us information that led us here, which led to additional investigation, which did to a certain extent corroborate the information given," said Cherokee County District Attorney Brian Kuester.
Since Adams disappeared in 2004, a number of theories have been floated about what may have happened to him. One of those has led to the Keys area where searchers are Thursday.
"We always have a level of hope, cautious optimism," Kuester said.
Investigators believe he may have been killed on a separate piece of property nearby. Cadaver dogs searched the other property in the past without any success. The thinking now is Adams may have been killed and his body taken and buried where searchers looked Thursday.
They're searching a two acre area. The ground penetrating radar showed an area two to six feet deep that could be where Adams is buried.
"It's not consistent with rocks, which is what we saw before in the previous area we searched before, up in the back corner," said Kuester.
Stephen Adams was last seen in December of 2004. He told his girlfriend he was giving someone a ride to Keys. Since, there's been no trace of him, or his pickup. It's been a painful ten years of not knowing for his family.
"I know for a fact, speaking to family members, the hardest part has been, ‘where's my son?' That's the hardest part, is what happened," said task force member Mike Moore.
A forensic archeology team will be brought in to carefully excavate the site to determine if there actually are human remains.
"If this doesn't turn out to be what we are hopeful that it is, then we'll pick up with the next lead, and keep on fighting to try to find justice for Stephen Adams and his family," said Kuester.
Investigators believe if Adams body is found here, it could help them connect the dots on possible suspects in his disappearance.
In 2012, a Cherokee County grand jury investigating Adams' death said it believed the people responsible for his death likely testified before the grand jury.