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3 men missing since Friday found in pond

The search for three missing Monticello men ended on a tragicnote Tuesday morning when their bodies were located in a pond offHighway 27 in Copiah County.

Copiah County Sheriff Harold Jones said officials were calledaround 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when family members doing an independentsearch for Justin Middlebrook, 22; Isaiah Tucker, 20; and TimothyYoung, 23, noticed heavy damage to foliage and some damage to abridge just north of the Copiah and Lawrence County line on Highway27.

The three men had been missing since early Friday morning.

They had attended a Thursday night basketball game atCopiah-Lincoln Community College where Middlebrook and Tucker werestudents. Afterward, family members told officials they decided todrive to The Horseshoe Lounge in Jackson.

Lawrence County Investigtor Capt. Ray Smith said they were lastseen at a gas station in Crystal Springs around 3 a.m.

“That was the last time they were seen or heard from,” Smithsaid, adding that the spot where the pewter 2004 Nissan Altimaregistered to Middlebrook’s mother was found was about 30 minutesfrom that gas station.

Smith said he was in Jones’ office Tuesday morning when thesearching family members alerted authorities to the possibleevidence of a car leaving the road. Divers and wreckers were calledto the scene, and officials determined that the men were still inthe vehicle.

“All three were still in the car when we pulled it out of thewater,” Jones said. “It looks as though the car hit some dead treesand a concrete culvert before it hit the water.”

Copiah County Coroner Ellis Stuart said the bodies will be sentto the state crime lab for autopsies, but that all three men hadidentification on them. They were also identified by family membersat the scene.

Stuart said there doesn’t appear to be any reason to suspectfoul play.

“At this point we have no reason,” he said Tuesday. “They’ll bedoing autopsies in the morning, and they’ll probably take about aweek for toxicology reports to come back to make a finaldeterminations on the deaths.”

Officials said the search, which had been conducted by land andby air and involved several different agencies, was one that deeplyimpacted the Monticello community.

“The community has been very helpful,” Smith said. “We’ve prayedtogether and stuck together and searched together. This communityis very close, and this has been tough on all of us.”

Stuart said while the circumstances are absolutely tragic, it isa blessing that the young men were found.

“I had both of my deputy coroners there, they both respondedwith me since we figured it’d be a tough scene,” he said. “This wasa really tough experience for the families, but I hope now we canstart some closure for them.”