Missing man spurs search

Five hours after Billy Lee Tolbert disappeared from the Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds, police found him safe at home in the Hudson area.

"He had made his way to Hickory White Furniture near Lenoir-Rhyne University," said Newton Police Chief Don Brown.

Tolbert previously worked at the furniture manufacturer located more than six miles from the fairgrounds where he was last seen. The 72-year-old man suffers from Alzehimer's Disease, according to police.

"He went and talked to someone inside there," Brown said, adding he assumed Tolbert walked to the furniture plant. "As I understand it, it was someone that knew him from when he worked there."

The familiar former co-worker agreed to take Tolbert home, and as he did, someone with the furniture maker contacted the missing man's family.

Tolbert was reported missing after he was separated from his family while they were at a flea market at the fairgrounds. According to Newton Police, the family left him waiting at the fairgrounds gate, while they were inside the sprawling U.S. 70 property.

To read more of this story, pick up the weekend print edition of Catawba County's community newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise, at newsstands throughout the county.