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SILVER ALERT: Family members asking for help finding man with dementia missing in Acadia Parish

Posted at 3:20 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 23:58:19-05

ACADIA PARISH, La. - Family members asking for help finding an Acadiana veteran, suffering from dementia, who may be missing in Acadia Parish.

89-year-old James Gunnels, Jr. was reported missing on February 13th, from an assisted living facility in Alexandria. Family members say he left just after 7:00 a.m. on Thursday; he was headed to Wal-mart to buy his wife a back brace. When he didn't arrive home, police reported him missing.

On Friday morning, Gunnels' truck was found in Acadia Parish, just off Blue Jay Road in Morse. It was then Louisiana State Police issued a Silver Alert on behalf of the Alexandria Police Department and the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office.

Family members tell us they were told by deputies his vehicle was caught on cameras with license plate readers at least eight times. The last time was around 11:15 a.m. Thursday morning, in Lafayette near Ridge Road and Lagneaux Road. His truck wouldn't be found until about 22 hours later by farmers in Acadia Parish. He was just a few miles away from his hometown of Jennings.

"He's been married to my grandmother for somewhere around 50 years, and she's alone without him. She misses him. She has no idea where he is, and she's devastated. She's worried. We all are," says his granddaughter, Melissa Gunnels Alban who drove in from Texas to help search for him.

Gunnels is 5'11" and weighs 180 pounds, last seen wearing black jeans and a charcoal gray hoodie. He left driving a red 2005 GMC extended cab truck, displaying Louisiana license plate X589823.

Family members confirm Gunnels suffers from slight dementia and his medical condition may impair his judgment, but they believe his mind was strong. He is diabetic, and he does not have his insulin. They do say he was frail and shuffled when he walked, but they say they were told no footprints were found near his vehicle to indicate which direction he may have went. They also say his keys were missing, and he did not have a phone. Several search dogs were brought out as early as Friday, but there was no indication that his scent was picked up.

They ask anyone with cameras in the area, or in what could have been the area he traveled, to look for his red pickup truck. They also believe he may have had to stop for gas at some point between Alexandria, Lafayette, and Morse, and would have paid cash since he didn't have credit cards. Gunnels served in the Air Force and the Navy, and was a paratrooper.

Agents with the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries are assisting the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office in the search. Sheriff KP Gibson said a search and rescue group had also assisted in the search over the weekend.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of James Gunnels should contact the Alexandria Police Department at 318-441-6559, or the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office at 337-458-0268.