[UPDATE] Friends Honor James Eunice

By: Gabrielle Sarann Email
By: Gabrielle Sarann Email

[UPDATE] 2/11 at 11:52 a.m. by Gabrielle Sarann

17-year-old James Eunice is officially a team member of the Georgia Bulldogs.

He was the Number 23 wide receiver for the Valdosta Wildcats.

"He was a great teammate and a great example of what we want in a person as far as being supportive and being for one another," said Valdosta Wildcats head coach Rance Gillespie. He added, "[He's] just a true Wildcat."

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[UPDATE] 1/31 at 5:09 p.m. by Gabrielle Sarann

Seventeen days into their search and recovery mission, deputies discover the body of a missing Valdosta teen.

At 8:12 a.m. Monday, investigators say they found 17-year-old James Eunice's body in the middle of Ocean Pond.

Deputies say James drowned January 15, after he fell overboard while flushing ducks.

They say James was wearing waders at the time, which prevented him from swimming ashore.

And lake temperatures were about 40 degrees that weekend, which caused his body temperature to drop quickly.

A cadaver dog aboard a rescue boat with three investigators, found his body 400 yards from the command post.

"Once the dog alerted on a scent, they immediately turned around and picked me up in the boat," said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Pine. "And we went back out and we recovered the body just underneath the surface of the water."

James' body was transported to McClane Funeral Home in Valdosta.

The family says the funeral will likely be Saturday at CrossPointe Church.

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[UPDATE] 1/31 at 9:45 a.m. -- by WCTV

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine has confirmed that the body of James Eunice was discovered at Ocean Pond this morning at approximately 8:15 a.m.

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[UPDATE] 1/27, at 10:40 a.m. by Gabrielle Sarann --

Clear skies will make way to fly a helicopter above Ocean Pond today, according to Lt. Stryde Jones, with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

And about 25 divers are rotating beneath the lake's surface to comb through thick vegetation by hand.

Everyday family and friends keep vigil at the command post on Ocean Pond, praying for James' return.

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[UPDATE] 1/25 at 4:16 p.m. by Gabrielle Sarann --

It's day 11 of the search for 17-year-old James Eunice and authorities say they're not giving up until they find him.

More than 50 search and rescue crew members are combing Ocean Pond for James, who disappeared while duck hunting with a friend.

The Sheriff's office says it's using sophisticated equipment to narrow the search to hot spots on the lake.

Some of the assets include sonars, helicopters, canines, boats and experienced divers from across the southeast.

"We're also searching some marsh areas that you can't necessarily access by boat," said Lt. Stryde Jones, with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office. He added, "But we're having to search those areas, and we're doing that repeatedly, as well."

Deputies say despite rumors, they've not recovered James' gun.

Investigators are calling this mission the most extensive search they've ever conducted.

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[UPDATE] 1/20 at 8:52 p.m. by Gabrielle Sarann--

Crews continue to work through the day and overnight to find James Eunice, 17, who disappeared Saturday while duck hunting on Ocean Pond.

"We did find his hat. That has been recovered," said said Lt. Stryde Jones, with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

It was along the southeast corner of Ocean Pond that deputies say they discovered James' black Valdosta High beanie floating along the shoreline.

Perhaps an indication that recovering James could happen at any moment.

"The boats are continuing, the surface scanning and we're also continuing operations with the sonar as well as the divers are going through and just doing a very, very detailed search," said Jones.

Divers are battling thick vegetation similar to the tall, dry marsh along the banks. But some stalks under the water are as tall as six feet.

James disappeared Saturday while duck hunting with a friend.

He dropped his friend at a nearby bank, set out to flush ducks and never returned.

James' friends and family have kept vigil by the lake.

And every night a prayer service at CrossPointe Church honors the young man whose friendship has meant the world to so many.

James' best friend, Nick Cardin, 17, said "It's been hard to keep it together. It's been really emotional for me. But I have friends keep me together."

Friends say James is a jokester, a motivator and knows how to reach their spirit.

"He's the kind of person that would talk to you and keep me together and talk to me about how I needed to strive more for God," said Nick. And to keep myself together through Christ."

Investigators and rescue crews have been working around the clock to find James, many during off-duty hours.

And thousands of people from across the country have joined Facebook groups praying for his return.

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[UPDATE] 1-19 1:00PM by WCTV --

Lowndes County Sheriff's Office Release:

The operations at Ocean Pond continued throughout the night with boats and dive teams operating despite the heavy rain fall at times. The canine teams remained on the water until approximately 9:00 pm.

Full scale operations have restarted this morning and flights by the Georgia State Patrol helicopter should begin as soon as the morning clouds and fog dissipate. Today’s operations will include boats with sonar, divers, scent detecting canines and the air flights.

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[UPDATE] 1/18, at 12:08 p.m by Gabrielle Sarann

Deputies say dive teams and recovery boats worked through the night searching Ocean Pond for James.

With lake temperatures at about 40 degrees, divers are working in shifts beneath the lake's surface.

James disappeared after dropping his friend at a nearby bank while he took a boat out to flush ducks 150 yards away.

But many folks are wondering why it's taking this long to find James.

"The biggest obstacle that we're facing is the vast amount of area that we're trying to cover," said Stryde Jones, with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office. "Also, the amount of growth inside the lake itself. And we're also battling water temperatures that are inside high thirties, low forties."

Authorities say search and rescue crews are determined to find James.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have joined facebook groups praying for his return.

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[UPDATE] 1/17, at 7:43 p.m. by Gabrielle Sarann

Family and Friends of a missing Valdosta teen are asking for your prayers, as search and rescue crews continue to comb a Lowndes County lake.

James Eunice, 17, hasn't been seen since a duck hunting excursion Saturday.

"He was my role model when it came to weight-lifting, to our geometry class to algebra class," said Michael Perez, a friend of James. "He is alive in all of us."

To say the last 48 hours have been difficult for friends and family of 17-year-old James Eunice would be quite the understatement.

"You'll say there's no way he's gone," said Heike Miller, 16, who's life is touched by James' friendship. "Then, you'll break down in tears and think what if we never see him again?"

Saturday afternoon, deputies received a call that James was missing on Ocean Pond.

He was duck-hunting with a friend, when he dropped his friend at a nearby bank.

Shortly afterward, his friend saw the boat running in circles on the water.

James was gone.

"He was always jumping around the hallway when you changed classes and everything," remembers Heike. "And it's definitely gonna be different if he's is gone."

The 17-year-old is a straight-A student at Valdosta High School, set to start at the University of Georgia this summer.

Friends say he loves his family, football and is guided by faith.

"That was his heart's desire," said Kenny Leonard, the Life Group Leader at CrossPointe Church. "You know, to see his friends just come to know God, just come to worship God and just live for him. He was just a great spiritual leader."

Friends say James is known for his smile and laugh and he's changed the lives of so many.

"Making my life seem like it has actual meaning," said Michael, who thanks James for leading him to God.. "That I have a reason to be here. Without James, without CrossPointe, I wouldn't know where I'd be right now."

Heike was touched by James' support Friday, "He grabbed my shoulder and said 'You're not leaving school, you're not giving up anything. You're staying right here. Even if I have to help you myself with your classwork for hours a day. I will do it."

Deputies have recovered the boat in which James was last seen and say they're determined to keep looking until they find him.

The Eunice family issued this statement, "“We are extremely thankful for the outpouring of support from the Valdosta-Lowndes community as we endure this tragic event. The multi-agency rescue effort on behalf of our son James has been overwhelming to witness. Federal, state and local coordination has been superb. We continue to hold out hope that James will be found. We know that we have the best people in the search and rescue business coordinating the effort, and we are patiently, yet anxiously, awaiting the results. Our family has been overwhelmed by the prayers, encouragement and support. We kindly ask that you continue to pray for the rescue efforts as our family holds out for hope.”

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At 6:30 p.m., a prayer service was held for James at Crospointe Church, where about 400 people turned out.

The CrossPointe Worship team played songs remembering Jame's spirit while friends and family prayed for his return.

"The exciting thing about this whole experience has been all of the people that come out that know James," said Michael Buffaloe, the executive pastor at CrossPointe. "That know what James is about. That he's about someone other than himself. It's not about him, it's about Jesus."

Friend Marquis McKinnon, who plays football with James said, "He's a real big motivator to me. And like we played football together and he motivates me even through the hard times during football. And that really meant a lot to me."

CrossPointe Church will continue to hold prayer services both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

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Around 1 p.m. Saturday, Lowndes County investigators received a call that James Eunice, 17, a student at Valdosta High School, went missing on Ocean Pond.

Officials say two friends were duck hunting when Eunice dropped his friend off on land while he went to flush ducks about 150 yards away.

When the teen lost sight of Eunice's boat, he called authorities.

Deputies, police, EMS officials, K-9's, helicopters and dive teams are still on site combing the scene.

* A picture of James Eunice has been included


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