Grieving family awaits closure in city man’s death

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 1, 2006

After losing a loved one in July, the family of Gary Hughes isstill grieving and wanting answers.

On July 23, 2006, Hughes, 26, went missing on his drive homefrom Texas to Brookhaven. Hughes spoke to his family for the lasttime when he called from Tyler, Texas, around 1 a.m.

After 24 hours, Hughes’ family knew he must have had anaccident. Hughes never made it home, never called and had not beenseen.

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The immediate family began to contact several law enforcementagencies including the Tyler Police Department. Family members saideach agency tried to pass the responsibility off to otherdepartments. After getting the feeling of not being takenseriously, the family began searching for the young manthemselves.

Four days later, the family arrived in Tyler and purchased twospotlights to begin their search.

At 1 a.m. and after only two hours of searching, the familyfound and followed skid marks that led to Hughes’ car in a woodedarea along the interstate.

Hughes’ cousin Jenna Windmiller, of Brookhaven, went along forthe search and said the car was visible from the road. The familylocated the body 25 miles from their starting point.

“We feel that somewhere along the line our justice system let usdown. All they saw was a single 26-year-old man who they thoughthad probably just ran off to party” said Windmiller. “If we had notgone to get him ourselves, there is no telling when he would havebeen found.”

Hughes was father to two children, Kristian, 6, andMcKenzie,4.

Even now, the family is still wanting for closure. They wantpeople to know what happened to Hughes and for those to takeresponsibility for not justly responding.

“We brought him home and gave him the funeral he deserved, butwe were robbed of our last chance to see him and say goodbye,” saidWindmiller.

Hughes’ mother Mary Etheridge is a contract nurse who wasworking in Maryland at the time of her son’s disappearance.Etheridge flew to Texas to find her son.

Etheridge said she believes Mississippi and Texas should haveboth pursued the missing person. Also, Hughes’ cell phone companywould not trace the call.

The family chose to have Hughes cremated. Etheridge arranged forthe services to be held at Riverwood in Brookhaven on Aug. 3 withhis burial in Arlington Cemetery in Bogue Chitto.

“My anger is the only thing that is keeping me going. Nothingwas accomplished until I flew there,” said Etheridge. “Both statesshould be held responsible, and I want someone’s head for this. Ihave no closure.”