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Missing Wesson man found alive near home

Missing Wesson man Billy Ricky Peden was found alive in a creeknot far from his home Tuesday afternoon, a full week after hedisappeared, authorities said.

Peden, 28, of 1066 Clopton Lane, went missing from sometime between7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. last Tuesday and had not been seen since.Copiah County Investigator Jerry Spell said Peden was found justbefore 2 p.m. Tuesday, when he was located by a search party.

Officials said Peden had been ill with a stomach ailment and wasjust beginning to show signs of recovery before he went missing.His wife, Virginia Peden, told officials she had seen him at 7:30a.m. last Tuesday when she left for work, and he was not home whena neighbor came to check in on him at 10:30 a.m.

Searchers feared Peden was dehydrated and possibly mentallycompromised because of his health. He had left his glasses andother personal belongings, but did have his wallet.

When Peden was found, he was conscious and dehydrated, officialssaid, and just a few hundred yards from his home.

“He’ll be questioned about what happened,” Spell said late Tuesdayafternoon. “We just know at this point that he knew he’d been outthere for a few days.”

Wesson Police Officer Mark O’Quinn said he and other officershelped escort the ambulance to Hazlehurst’s Hardy Wilson MemorialHospital, where Peden was evaluated.

Local law enforcement said the search party included quite a fewsheriff’s department and police officials, as well as volunteersfrom the community. The fire department searchers were called offat the end of last week, but the official search continued.

How Peden went unnoticed is a mystery to officials, but one only hecan answer.

“The first two days it was the sheriff’s department and thevolunteer fire departments walking the woods, and they had twodifferent dogs out there,” said Copiah County Civil DefenseDirector Randle Drane. “I think they were also trying to run downleads through the computer.”

Spell said officials do not yet know what caused Peden to leavehome.