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Man who police said spurred river search faces sex registry violations

John Thompson • Feb 22, 2019 at 11:12 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A man police said spurred dozens of first responders to search the Watauga River for a young girl last week was arraigned Friday on two counts of violating the sex offender registry law.

Landon Wayne Garland, 32, Lot 30, 340 Lovers Lane, posted bond after Judge Keith Bowers Jr. set his bond at $15,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 5.

Capt. Mike Little of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department responded to the call about a child in the river on Feb. 14.

At the start of the investigation, Little said he learned that 911 had been called after Landon Garland told residents of his trailer park that he had attempted to rescue a 3-year-old child after seeing her floating in the river, which runs next to the trailer park. Little said he learned that Garland and a 13-year-old boy were involved in the incident.

Little said he began questioning the 13-year-old, and that the youth told him about a secluded spot near the trailer park where he and Garland would go to fish. Little spoke with the boy’s mother, who told him the two were sometimes alone together at the area.

Based on Little’s findings, Investigator Jenna Markland charged Garland with violation of sex offender registry reporting and monitoring.

Markland said she also learned that Garland had been released from state probation in 2018 and had failed to report the release to the sex registry within 48 hours as was required by law. Markland charged Garland with an additional violation.

The report of a girl struggling in the river brought out several agencies: Wings Air Rescue had one helicopter flying overhead, and two or three boats were also searching a roughly three-mile stretch of the river around Pleasant Beach Baptist Church.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford later called off the search after questions arose about the reliability of the only report received about the child. He said there were also no reports of a missing child on that night

Lunceford also said one person trying to help in the search fell into the water and had to be rescued.

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