Family searches for hunter missing in Pine Barrens

Barry Zeldin had just celebrated 50th wedding anniversary.
Barry Zeldin had just celebrated 50th wedding anniversary.
Posted: October 20, 2013

MAYS LANDING, N.J. Barry Zeldin left his home one day last week, as he often does, to head to the local gun club and bait his deer stand near Chatsworth, Burlington County.

When Zeldin, 74, didn't return to his Mays Landing home that night, his wife was not alarmed. "It's not unusual for my dad to be out a couple of days hunting," his daughter, April Zeldin-Belcher, 41, said Friday.

More than a week later, though, he is still missing, and his family, normally scattered across the country, is frantically searching for him in the Pine Barrens. He suffers from diabetes and has had several strokes, Zeldin-Belcher said.

Zeldin's children and extended family said they face many obstacles: an unfamiliar and unforgiving terrain, dropping temperatures, and little help after police called off the search last weekend.

Now, they are consulting a Toms River psychic, looking for any help they can get.

Zeldin signed in at the gun club just before 10 a.m. Oct. 7. The previous night, he and his wife, Janet, had celebrated their 50th anniversary.

Janet Zeldin tried calling her husband the next two days, but no one picked up, Zeldin-Belcher said. She drove to the gun club Oct. 11 and went out searching with members. Last Saturday, they found Zeldin's car on Beaver Dam Road in Warren Grove, along with his keys, cellphone, and dog.

New Jersey state police, park police, and volunteers searched the area from Oct. 10 through Sunday afternoon, said Sgt. Adam Grossman, a state police spokesman. "It was an exhaustive 21/2-day search," he said.

At this time, he said, "it's an ongoing missing-persons investigation."

On Monday, Zeldin's family picked up the search. Zeldin-Belcher arrived with her husband, David Belcher, from Junction City, Ky. Her brother, Glenn, and sister-in-law, Debbie, flew in from Chandler, Ariz.

They felt compelled to look for their father, Zeldin-Belcher said, but have found only frustration in the heavily forested section.

"It's such a big area," she said. "It's hard to cover. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. We don't know what to do."

David Belcher and Glenn Zeldin hiked through the woods each day this week, but "it's really so hard to search with two people," Zeldin-Belcher said. "We really need dogs to sniff out."

She tried her hand Friday at navigating the Pine Barrens but struggled, sometimes falling. "It's so dense, the woods. . . . It's hard to see in front of you."

She said the family was growing more concerned with each passing day. The nights are getting colder, and there has been no sign of her father.

But the family hasn't given up hope. The psychic "pinpointed the area she thinks my dad is located in," five miles northwest of his vehicle, Zeldin-Belcher said.

"We're supposed to go out Sunday with her and the police," she said.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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