Missing Searcy man suspect in embezzlement

Missing Searcy man suspect in embezzlement

Authorities say a man thought to have disappeared when he fell into the Little Red River is a suspect in an embezzlement case.
SEARCY, Ark. (AP) - Authorities say a man thought to have disappeared when he fell into the Little Red River is a suspect in an embezzlement case.

Matthew Sheppard, 42, of Searcy reportedly fell into the river from a dock near Cow Shoals outside of Heber Springs on Feb. 17. Rescuers worked for two days to find him, with no results.

Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss said Sheppard's wife reported her husband fell in the water.

"She said he was reaching over a handrail to try to grab the collar of his dog and pull his Labrador retriever out of the water," Moss said. "In the process, he lost his balance and went over."

The water temperature was 39 degrees the day Sheppard was reported missing, officials said.

But it turns out that Searcy police are investigating a report by Eaton Corp. in Searcy that Sheppard allegedly falsified expense records over 1 1/2 years to cheat the company out of about $40,000. Records show Eaton human resources manager Phil McGrath made the report to police.

"Our thoughts are with the family in this unfortunate and difficult situation," McGrath said when asked about the matter Wednesday.

Sheppard was the environmental health and safety manager for the plant, having started in April 2005, McGrath said.

Moss said 60 people from numerous agencies took part in the search for Sheppard.

"It was a very significant search. We searched with divers. We stopped the generation. The river was shallow in many places, where you could see the bottom, and where it was deeper we used sonar," Moss said.

White County Chief Deputy Jeremy Clark said it was freezing cold the first night Moss requested help.

"We had about 50 man hours that were spent by our agency during the entire search," Clark said. That was only White County's portion. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission invested 122 man hours, a spokesman said, using five divers and three boats.

Authorities could only speculate on where Sheppard could be if the report he went into the river was incorrect.

Last year in Miller County, Jody Cook, staged his disappearance on the Red River. His wife and a friend told police Cook had jumped 100 feet from a bridge to the swift waters below. A five-day search turned up no body. Four months later, Cook was found living with his family in Mena.

Authorities said Cook was trying to avoid standing trial on a charge he raped a 13-year-old girl. He admitted to the ruse, pleaded guilty to rape and other charges and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.


Information from: The Daily Citizen, http://www.thedailycitizen.com/


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