CUE Center joins search for missing NC teens

Jake Ziegler, 18 (left), and 17-year-old Ray Pierce (right) have been missing since Friday and may be in the Myrtle Beach area. (Source: Family of missing teens)
Jake Ziegler, 18 (left), and 17-year-old Ray Pierce (right) have been missing since Friday and may be in the Myrtle Beach area. (Source: Family of missing teens)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Facebook page titled, "Help find Jake Ziegler and Ray Pierce," was in the process of shutting down Monday after Jackie Ziegler explained it was causing more grief than good for the family. Several tips came through the Facebook page in the past week. None of them panned out.

As of Tuesday morning we've learned the family has launched a ;new Facebook page that only allows followers to "Like," and "Share" status updates, not comment on them, as to avoid the tips that have only clouded search efforts to this point.

The Ziegler and Pierce families announced Friday they hired a private investigator to aid in their search efforts for their teen sons.

The CUE center is set up at a command post in Blythewood, SC. Private Investigator Kevin Ryan said the majority of search efforts remain in Blythewood for now, until a lead guides them elsewhere. But for now, the family hasn't received any solid leads to follow.

"Basically we're where we were last week. We have not uncovered any new clues. We are continuing to search. Just because we scaled back in certain areas doesn't mean that we won't be back there. But we haven't given up any hope what so ever," Ryan said.

According to Captain David Knipes with MBPD, a tip came into police on Friday that the teens may have went into the Gay Dolphin, a gift and souvenir shop on Ocean Boulevard, Monday around 11 a.m.

Family members of the two missing boys confirmed to WMBF News the tip that the teens may have went into the Gay Dolphin was not them.

Private Investigator Ryan said he will continue to search for the boys, until they are found.

"There is reason to believe that somebody knows something. Do I have any hard evidence? No, I don't. That's why this case, I've said this all along- it's going to take old-fashioned police work. It's going take interviews. If it takes a thousand, I'll do a thousand to bring these boys home," Ryan said.

Horry County Police confirmed Friday, even though there is not any solid evidence the boys ever made it to Horry County, they are actively looking for them.

"Our patrol officers are actively looking while they're out on patrol answering calls looking for a vehicle matching the description looking for people that look like the missing boys," Horry County Police Sergeant Robert Kegler said.

Kegler said, if it turns out the boys simply ran away, and remain in South Carolina, they will not be in any legal trouble.

"I don't see where they would be liable or deemed to have conducted any criminal activity," Sgt. Kegler said.

Search crews met at 9 a.m. Friday at the Sleep Inn beside the Tractor Supply company on Highway 501 to begin searching for Jake Ziegler, 18, and 17-year-old Ray Pierce, the two missing North Carolina teens believed to have been headed to Myrtle Beach early Oct. 13.

An official search team in Fairfield County also searched again Friday. Additionally, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division searched the air and land throughout the week in both Fairfield and Horry Counties.

Search efforts continued into the evening Thursday for missing teens, Ziegler and Pierce. As the day winded down, the family began to focus their search efforts closer to the beach, after several tips came in throughout the day saying the boys were near the beach over the weekend.

A sales clerk came forward Thursday to say she sold the teens clothes over the weekend. Horry County Police as well as& the family later confirmed the woman did not see Jake or Ray.

The lead from the sales clerk came on day two of an intense search for Ziegler and Pierce. More than 100 volunteers showed up Thursday morning in Conway to offer help in finding the teens.;

"My daughter goes to school with the boys and I know if it were her, I would definitely want everybody helping. So we figured this was more important than school today," said volunteer Susan Deviney.

Cadaver and bloodhound dogs searched the Fairfield County area between exits 41 and 49, based on the last cell phone tower ping from the teens.

The teens reportedly left the Sherrills Ford area of North Carolina just after 1 a.m. on Oct. 13, believed to be driving to Myrtle Beach. The last contact the teens have had with anyone was through a text message to a friend at 2:44 a.m. Oct. 13.

Susan Ziegler, mother of Jake Ziegler, says there is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the two teens. The initial search party met Wednesday in Conway at the Public Safety Building at 2560 Main Street at 8 a.m. Jake's father, Zig, said he is grateful to everyone who is coming forward to offer help to his family.

"If anybody could help me. If anybody could even feel the pain I'm going through," Zig Ziegler said.

Zig explains that after the family reported their son as missing, two unsolicited psychics contacted the family to report they each felt the car the teens were in, a 2006 Green Pontiac G-6, would be found flipped upside down in a ditch in either the Conway or Socastee area. Upon receiving that voluntary information from the psychics, the family reached out to a third psychic, who reported the same scenario without being made aware of the previous calls.

"I believe he's in a ditch off to the side of the road at a bend. It's got some heavy brush covering, you're gonna have to look down there. But if anybody could son doesn't have much longer if he's alive. I believe he is," Zig Ziegler pleaded.

Volunteers in the search are asked to wear something bright orange and to bring a map of the area and a flashlight. Everyone who can is asked to help in the search. Jackie Ziegler said she is also grateful for the outpouring of help her family has received.

"The more information that gets out, the more people that see it. I've had friends of friends of friends that have offered resources that I just don't have access to myself. And, the social media and the outpour of support has been incredible. I feel blessed and honored to have so many people willing to help," Jackie Ziegler said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations has also now joined the search for the two North Carolina teens, and the Catawba County Sheriff's Office confirms it is looking for Ziegler and Pierce.

Parents say that their search efforts are being supplemented by the FBI as they search for the teens.

Jake and Ray attend Bandys High School.

"The atmosphere at school is like everybody's supporting each other. When something goes wrong in our community, the whole community groups together and becomes one huge family. The school has been less energized, but they've been trying to support each other the best they can," classmate Sarah Deviney said.

Fairfield County Chief Deputy Keith Lewis says all the information investigators have gathered leave them to believe that Jake Ziegler, 18, and 17-year-old Ray Pierce crashed along Interstate 77.

Lewis believes the crash, if it happened, would have occurred along the interstate near mile marker 48. He says the search could be difficult because Ziegler and Pierce were driving in a green Pontiac, which could be difficult to spot in a wooded area.

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office teamed up with SLED investigators to search along Interstate 77 with helicopters and ground crews. Search teams are using four-wheelers and the Highway Patrol's helicopter.

A spokesman for the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office says that one of the boy's cell phones last picked up service along Interstate 77 between exits 45 and 48.

According to the cell phone company, the ping radius for the phone is around four miles. Investigators are searching a five-mile area.

Jackie says she hopes police will take her case seriously, because it is unlike her younger brother, Jake to not contact her.

"I understand the statistics and I understand that, but this is not my brother. And there's no chance in hell he would go this far without contacting me," Jackie Ziegler said, "there is no activity on their cell phones, on their debit cards. We don't believe they have any cash with them. They have one Shell card for gas and they can use it for food. However, I can't trace it until Monday morning."

Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes said the city is a magnet for runaway teens and people looking for a hide-out. But, he added, missing juveniles do not go unnoticed. Knipes said a special group of officers make up a juvenile department, specializing in locating missing persons.

"They'll take the flyers and literally canvas door to door and ocean boulevard, hand out the flyers to the different hotels and see if somebody might have seen these people to give them that extra little help," Knipes said. "They're just an anonymous face. With Myrtle Beach having such a high transient population with people coming in for a weekend or a week at a time there's different faces all the time so they can just blend in a lot easier."

Dozens of family members and friends drove down I-77 to Columbia Monday morning to see if they could locate the car the teens were driving. Ziegler says they are looking for a 2006 Green Pontiac G-6 with NC plates BDD-8844.

Ziegler's dad drove to Myrtle Beach and rented a helicopter to survey the area and surrounding areas. On Monday, both boys' families publicly urged them to go home.

"You are not in trouble. Our hearts are broken. I will not stop at anything until he is home. And I mean it. If he doesn't want us to find him, I'm gonna find him. We're waiting here with open arms and we're gonna do whatever it takes because that's what family does and that's what family's for," Jackie Ziegler said.

"You have two sisters. You have a family that loves you, that's concerned, that wants you home safe. Please come home if you're listening to this," Pierce's mother Wendy Pierce said.

Jackie Ziegler says she and her family still believe the boys could be in the Myrtle Beach area, and FBI agents on the case have told them to, "sit tight for awhile so their search doesn't get in the way of theirs (FBI)."

Representatives from the CUE Center for Missing Persons have also met with the family, and urged them not to call for more search volunteers at the risk that untrained eyes may miss, and even destroy evidence as they search for the two teens.

If you see the teens, or the vehicle they are reportedly driving, please call Myrtle Beach Police at 843-918-1300.

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