The body of a man found floating in Center Hill Lake last Friday has been positively identified by the state medical examiner as Joseph Loupe of Rutherford County.
"The pathologist was able to take xrays to make a positive identification," Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE Thursday afternoon. "The autopsy revealed that Loupe was the victim of a drowning. No foul play is suspected, according to Sheriff Ray.
Loupe's badly decomposed body was spotted by a fisherman last Friday morning, October 11 on what would have been the victim's 45th birthday. The remains surfaced in the area of Edgar Evins State Park and Center Hill Marina, near where his boat was found on the day of his disappearance nearly three years ago.
Loupe rented a pontoon boat from Center Hill Marina on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 and set out on the lake. Later that day, the boat was found unoccupied but still in gear and traveling in a circle, about three quarters of a mile from the marina.
" In my career as a law enforcement officer, I never heard of any body surfacing after being in the lake for that long," said Sheriff Ray.
"We believe he either fell or jumped into the water from the boat. A fanny pack was on the body that contained his identification but since the remains were so badly decomposed, we couldn't tell who he was. After his body was sent to Nashville for an autopsy, the state medical examiner asked us to see if we could find Xrays to help confirm his identity," said Sheriff Ray.
At the time of Loupe's disappearance, the incident was initially treated as a possible boating accident. " He rented the boat around midday from Center Hill Marina," said TWRA Officer Tony Cross on the day Loupe went missing. "Approximately 50 minutes to an hour later, the boat was discovered unoccupied out on the lake, still moving, in gear. Several different agencies are working on it. We're working side by side with the sheriff's department in DeKalb and Rutherford county," said Officer Cross.
After getting the boat stopped, an Edgar Evins Marina employee and park ranger began a visual search, scanning the banks and shoreline in the area, before contacting the TWRA.
Officer Cross said there was one sighting of the man on the lake prior to his disappearance. "We had a witness (an employee of Edgar Evins Marina) who saw the rental pontoon and saw that there was a person on board, but he was quite a distance away. He just happened to take notice of it since there is very little boat traffic on the lake right now. He noticed it was a rental pontoon from Center Hill Marina and it looked like one person was on the boat but nothing appeared to be amiss."
TWRA officers scanned the banks by boat throughout the afternoon and dragging operations by the rescue squad continued until dark, but to no avail.
"As soon as he went missing, we did a missing person report on him," Sheriff Ray told WJLE Thursday. "We entered him into the National Crime Information Center as missing and over the last three years we did some investigation and checked tips we received but nothing ever came from it," he said.