Hope fades that man missing in East Dublin will be found alive, but family still searching

Missing man’s aunt searches woods in East Dublin

Vicki Brannon, whose nephew Brian Samples has been missing since July 6, came to East Dublin on Wednesday to search for him. He was last seen at the Red Carpet Inn there.
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Vicki Brannon, whose nephew Brian Samples has been missing since July 6, came to East Dublin on Wednesday to search for him. He was last seen at the Red Carpet Inn there.

In the woods behind Cloverleaf Restaurant on Wednesday, Vicki Brannon searched for something she really didn’t want to find.

Her nephew, Brian Samples, 43, has been missing since July 6. He was last seen at the Red Carpet Inn in East Dublin, about half a mile from where Brannon was searching.

She and other family members are still holding out hope he is alive, but as days pass, Brannon said they now accept it’s more likely they are looking for a body. That’s why her search has turned to the woods.

She spotted an old dumpster with vegetation grown around it, so it was clearly not in use. It was an obvious potential spot for someone to get rid of a body quickly.

“This is when it gets emotional because you pray you don’t find him but at the same time you pray, if he’s there, you find him,” she said as she approached it.

She opened the lid and saw that it was empty.

“And I will say ‘thank God,’” she said.

She spotted some garbage down a hill in the woods. Getting to it meant going through some thick undergrowth. That didn’t stop her, although she was wearing shorts. She wanted to check it out and make sure none of it was anything that might have belonged to her nephew.

Back up the hill was an abandoned house, and she checked that out thoroughly, even looking under it.

Brannon had driven down that morning from her home in Pendergrass in north Georgia, three hours away. Although none of the family is from the area, they have been in East Dublin almost daily ever since they realized Samples was missing.

They have put out well over 1,000 laminated fliers. Someone keeps taking them down, Brannon said, but after ending her search of the woods she walked down Central Drive, the main street through East Dublin, putting fliers on every pole she passed.

They have also been to Waycross, Savannah and other locations checking out tips of possible sightings, but with no success.

‘Brian was a good man who made some bad choices’

Brian Samples is a friendly, good-hearted person who loves children and has a heart for helping others, his family will tell you. They will also tell you he struggled with alcohol and meth addiction, and had been in and out of jail.

His sister, Lori Duncan, said his biggest issue is that he would get probation, and then not report to his probation officer, causing his problems to snowball. He has done three stints in prison with charges that include theft, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

One time he was on the run from the law and stole a car. When it ran out of gas, he called police to let them know where the car was so the owner could get it back.

“That’s the kind of person Brian is,” Duncan said.

Since he has been missing, she said a guard at a prison where he had served called her and wanted to tell her he was praying for her.

“He said Brian was a good man who made some bad choices,” she said.

She said he had been working hard in the past year to overcome his addiction so that his newborn grandson wouldn’t see him the way his children had.

Samples is from Buford, but was staying at a home in Dodge County while he attended a court-ordered rehabilitation facility. He had a relapse prior to his disappearance, and left the rehabilitation program.

The family had thought his last known contact was a cellphone call to a friend in the early morning hours of July 6. He said he believed he was being set up to be robbed. However, Brannon said they have since learned that at around 10 a.m. on July 6, he spoke with a housekeeper at the hotel and asked for fresh towels.

That is the last known contact anyone had with him. His belongings were left in his room and his car was still in the parking lot.

There has been no sign of him since then and his cell phone hasn’t pinged. What really concerns the family is that even when he was in trouble, he never went long without contacting them.

“I hope and pray he is somewhere and just doesn’t know who he is, but after this amount of time not hearing from my brother, I am fearful the end result is not what we want it to be,” Duncan said.

The family has hired a private investigator to look into the case.

On Wednesday, Brannon also stopped by the East Dublin Police Department and spoke with Sgt. Stefan Brown, who is investigating the disappearance. He agreed to let a Telegraph reporter sit in on the conversation.

“I think we are making strides,” he said. “We’ve got some people to talk to.”

He didn’t give a lot of specifics, but told Brannon he has two polygraphs set up and he is optimistic about the investigation. He said the case remains classified as “a missing and possibly endangered person.”

It was about a week after Samples was last seen that his family realized he was missing. They made a report to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office. It took more time to track him back to East Dublin, and by then it was too late to recover surveillance video at the motel, Brown said.

A digital recorder typically keeps data for a certain period of time, but drops the oldest data to make room for new video. By the time investigators got to the motel, Brown said, the video from the time of Sample’s disappearance was gone. He said he had a technician look at the recorder to see if anything could be recovered, but the video is lost, he told Brannon.

Samples’ mother, Patsy Samples, made a plea for anyone with information about the case to contact police.

“I feel like somebody in that area knows what happened to my son, and I just want them to put themselves in my position, in his children’s position,” she said. “He was loved. He was a good man. He made some bad choices but he had really worked on straightening his life out this year.”

Samples, is 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs about 225 pounds and has a large tattoo on his back, as well as tattoos on his arms. The one on his back shows a depiction of Jesus and the verse Psalms 86:13, “For great is thou mercy toward me and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”

Anyone with information in the case can call the East Dublin Police Department at 478-272-6883.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.