Remains of missing Derry man found in woodsStaff report
March 10. 2017 3:18PM
DERRY — Jack Walsh, the 63-year-old Derry man whose disappearance attracted national media attention, apparently was found dead in the woods Friday not far from where he was last seen.
An off-duty Derry police officer was hiking in a wooded area off Rockingham Road around 11:30 a.m. when he discovered human remains in a swampy area next to a brook, according to a news release.
The body, found about 200 yards into the woods, is believed to be that of Walsh. The discovery comes about three months after Walsh first went missing, authorities said.
The body was taken to Concord, where the state medical examiner will determine the cause of death. Police said there were no signs of foul play and the body appeared to have been there for an “extended” period of time.
A short time after Derry police confirmed the finding, the family issued a statement on the Facebook page created for help in finding Walsh entitled, “Bring Jack Home.”
“Earlier today a body was found in Derry NH off of Rockingham Rd (Rte 28),” the statement said.
“It is with heavy hearts that we disclose that it was, in fact, Jack. We thank you all for being supportive and overwhelmingly helpful for the last three months. As of right now we have limited information and will share with you upon any new findings.”
After his disappearance, a Derry police K9 team tried to track the man but never picked up a trail, police said. And there were no tracks leading into the woods in the freshly fallen snow that day. “It would have been very obvious if anybody had walked off into the snowbank or woods,” said Derry Police Capt. Vern Thomas at the time.
Walsh walked away from Parkland Medical Center on Dec. 13 about 1 p.m. He had been dropped off there by a transport van from Pleasant Valley Nursing Center, where he lived. He was last seen walking down Birch Street toward Windham.
Family members said Walsh suffered from dementia and schizophrenia.
They said Walsh was a ward of the state. He had been known to hitchhike in the past, and police thought he may have left the area when no trace of him was found.
Walsh had moved to Pleasant Valley Nursing Center in Derry about a month before he disappeared. Prior to that, his parents had cared for him until his mother died and his father moved into a nursing home.
The search for Walsh gave attention to a new state law that was aimed at making it easier to post alerts for missing adults.
“We’ve had quite a few cases, but this case in Derry is breaking my heart,” said Heather Carroll, public policy manager for the New Hampshire Alzheimer’s Association. “For anyone who wanders around, in 10 minutes it’s considered life-threatening. After 12 hours, it’s usually a death.”
Under the previous law, a person could only be labeled as “missing” if a doctor certified their condition, they disappeared from their home, and were reported missing by a family member. Under the new law, police do not need medical certification and it doesn’t matter if the person was last seen at home, a grocery store, or a hospital, as in Walsh’s case.
A nursing home or a staff member at adult day care can now report a person missing. The new law also incudes anyone over the age of 18; health conditions can be anything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s.
It’s similar to “Silver Alerts” issued in 27 other states, in which the media must be notified. New Hampshire does not make use of electronic message boards like other states with older populations, such as Florida and Washington.
Family members said they told Derry police right away that he was missing, but a plea to the public for help was not put out until three days after he had disappeared.
Shawne K. Wickham and Gretchen Grosky contributed to this report.