Julie Ann Hays, 49, left her home in Jonesboro, Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 19 around 7 a.m. for a day hike on the Art Loeb trail headed toward Cold Mountain. Mrs. Hays’ vehicle was found parked at the trailhead on Little East Fork, along with a note she had left at the car stating she began her hike at 10 a.m. Her husband reported her missing after she failed to return home late Saturday evening.
Search and rescue personnel were dispatched and mobilized after midnight Sunday. The search has continued around-the-clock since, involving several dozen searchers from the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and local volunteer fire departments, Henderson County Rescue Squad, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, Asheville Fire Department, Asheville Police Department, and a helicopter from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Hays is described as a Caucasian female, 49 years of age, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall, 150 pounds with an average build, green eyes, long blond hair, fair complexion and wearing contact lenses. Hays is an Assistant District Attorney in Washington County, Tennessee. She was prepared for a fair-weather day hike, packing only a light lunch and wearing a blue short-sleeve shirt, blue jeans and hiking shoes. She has hiked alone in the area before, but not on that trail.
Emergency personnel are continuing to search the area, along with search-and-rescue canine teams and – weather permitting – search aircraft.
Anyone who has seen Julie Ann Hays or has any information as to her possible whereabouts is asked to contact the Haywood County Communications center at (828) 452-6666 immediately.