Phone records offer clues to missing lawyer’s travels
Attorney believes Johnson safe, determined to remain unfound
Ralph B. Davis firstname.lastname@example.org
PRESTONSBURG — A lawyer investigating the disappearance of Martin city attorney and former Floyd County Bar Association president Clyde Johnson says he is now satisfied that he has enough answers to conclude that Johnson intentionally left the area and has no desire to be found.
Ned Pillersdorf says he received a break in the case Wednesday evening, when officials with prepaid wireless phone company Tracfone finally answered a subpoena, providing information about a cell phone Johnson is believed to have purchased three days before his disappearance. Based on that information, Pillersdorf says he believes Johnson is safe and wishes to be left alone.
“This was a planned, voluntary departure,” Pillersdorf said Thursday morning. “Clyde is alive and well, and using electronic devices, probably somewhere in the Southwest.”
Pillersdorf said he was led to seek information from Tracfone after Johnson’s wife, Rose Johnson, found a $200 prepaid Tracfone card in his office trash. The card had the PIN scratched off, indicating whoever had purchased the card used it to add minutes to a cell phone.
Based on that discovery, Pillersdorf issued a subpoena to Tracfone for the company to provide any information it could about how the phone was being used. When the company did not respond, he filed a motion Wednesday, seeking to compel the company to explain why it should not held in contempt of court. Shortly after he emailed a copy of the second motion to the company’s lawyers, Tracfone supplied the information it had.
Pillersdorf said the information provided by Tracfone indicates Johnson willingly left the area and is traveling under an assumed name. The phone is registered under the name of “Lazarus Long,” a reference to a time-travelling character in several science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein.
By checking information in Johnson KOA campground rewards card account, Pillersdorf had previously determined that, after Johnson left Floyd County June 23, he stayed overnight at a campground in Bowling Green and again the following night at a campground near Little Rock, Ark. After that the trail grew cold.
Pillersdorf, believing Johnson was traveling west, went to California to search campgrounds for his colleague, but found no evidence.
“I didn’t even see a Kentucky license plate while I was out there,” Pillersdorf said.
The newly obtained phone records indicate Johnson may have instead traveled to Texas, after leaving Arkansas. The records show several calls placed from the phone presumed to be in Johnson’s possession to KOA campgrounds near Austin, Texas. Internet service was also added to the phone.
Then, on Aug. 9, a final 24-minute call was placed to Verizon Wireless. Pillersdorf believes Johnson obtained a new phone at that time.
Since that time, no additional information is available. Pillersdorf said he has placed several calls to the Tracfone number, but no one has answered.
Pillersdorf said he is now satisfied that Johnson is safe and not in any sort of trouble.
“Yes, he’s alive,” Pillersdorf said. “Yes, he left voluntarily, and apparently he doesn’t want to be found.”
With those answers now in hand, Pillersdorf said he believes it is no longer necessary to continue probing into Johnson’s disappearance.
“He can call us if we wants, but I think we’ve basically answered the questions we had,” Pillersdorf said.
Pillersdorf noted that Johnson purchased the Tracfone card three days before he left town, which, when coupled with the fact that he purchased a camper two weeks earlier without telling his wife, further indicates that Johnson had been planning his disappearance for some time. And were it not for finding the used Tracfone card in Johnson’s office trash, he likely would have been gone without a trace.
“The moral of this story is, if you plan on disappearing, don’t leave anything in the trash can,” Pillersdorf said.
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