Body of missing man found in Ohio River

MARIETTA – Two months after he was last seen checking into the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, the body of a missing Parkersburg man is believed to have been retrieved from the Ohio River Friday evening.

Authorities would not confirm the identity of a body that was found floating in the Ohio River, seven miles south of Marietta near Marietta Industrial Enterprises.

However, the family of 22-year-old Carl Austin Travis confirmed that the body was the Parkersburg South High School graduate, who disappeared in Marietta while on leave from the Navy.

While heartbreaking, the discovery brings an end to two agonizing months of uncertainty, said Gary Backus, Travis’ grandfather.

“This will mean some closure,” said Backus, while leaving the area where the body was found.

The ongoing investigation had included a previous scan of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. Three cadaver-sniffing dogs had indicated to the possible presence of a body March 4 by the Ohio River levee in Marietta, but eight hours of searching turned up no physical evidence.

The body has been sent to Montgomery County for an autopsy, said Washington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Warden.

Warden said he could not comment on if there were indications of foul play.

Authorities will use DNA to try to officially confirm the identity of the body, said Lt. Troy Hawkins of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“Arrangements had already been made between law enforcement and the Navy to compare any known DNA when or if remains were located,” said Hawkins.

Travis’ mother, Susan Lott of Belpre, said her son was identified by his wallet and jacket.

“He was just a sweet boy. He had his whole life ahead,” she said.

Travis was on the track and wrestling teams in high school. He ran in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon last summer, Lott said.

Lott said she will remember her son as an intelligent young man, who was always thoughtful.

“He was a very kind-hearted person. He had a really warm smile,” she said.

Travis decided to join the Navy to see the world, his mother said. He was planning on taking a test to become a supply officer, she added.

Travis was last seen checking into the Lafayette Hotel on Feb. 12.

Family members contacted the Marietta Police Department Feb. 18 to report a prolonged period of no contact with Travis.

However, he was not officially declared missing until Feb. 22, the day he failed to return to his Navy ship, the USS Halyburton, stationed in Jacksonville, Fla.

The presence of a body in the river was discovered around 4 p.m. Friday by employees at Marietta Industrial Enterprises, who were able to retain the body near their dock until authorities were on scene, said Warden.

Officials from the Marietta Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources were on the scene.