CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. - Search crews concentrated their efforts on a secondary road off Interstate 77 on Thursday in the search for two missing teenagers.
Monica Caisson and more than a dozen volunteers from the CUE Center for Missing Persons worked their way through thick brush, hoping to find some sign of Jake Ziegler or Ray Pierce.
Deputies said a cell tower pinged one of their phones early Saturday morning, 40 miles north of Columbia. They have not been heard from since.
“Hopefully, we are still in the window that if they are out there and injured, we can find them, and that's why there is an urgency,” Caisson said.
For three days, sheriff deputies in Fairfield County have been searching a 20-mile stretch of the interstate.
Much of Pierce's family was there, including the uncle who he is named after. He doesn't believe the teenagers ever made it to the Carolina coast.
“Ray is here. Ray is somewhere here,” said his uncle, Ray Pierce. “We can't find him, and that's why everything is here.”
Investigators told Channel 9 they have checked surveillance video at every store along the interstate and have not seen the teenagers.
Other family members are following leads along the coast, but deputies said the evidence shows their last cell signal was in Fairfield County. That's why friends like Scotti Miller remain hopeful.
“I haven't really broken down yet,” Miller said. “I'm keeping myself strong and keeping hope. I know we are going to find them. Without a doubt, we will find them.”
Family members said even if they don't find anything Thursday, they will be back at it on Friday, searching a little farther south, closer to Columbia.