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Private Investigator T.J. Ward Hired in Search
for Missing Buford Man Kelly Nash

Nationally Known Search and Rescue Expert Trace Sargent Orchestrates Ground Searches

BUFORD / GwinnettDaillyPost / — The first wave of volunteers gathered at the “command center” — a sort of hybrid warehouse and workshop at the rear of a local prosthetics company — well before the pre-established meeting time of 9 a.m. Huddled in layers of jackets and other cold-weather gear, the three dozen or so men and women were briefed by Trace Sargent, a nationally known search and rescue expert.

“If you find any clues whatsoever, and this is so important guys, please please do not pick it up,” Sargent said. “Do not disturb it. And this includes Kelly.”

Friday marked the fifth day of searching for Nash, a 25-year-old Georgia Gwinnett College student last seen early Monday morning inside his home on Buford’s Jimmy Dodd Road. All signs suggest that Nash left on his own accord — there were no signs of forced entry and his wallet, phone, keys and car were left at the residence — but the clues stop there.

Nash has no history of mental illness, drug abuse or trouble with the law. A handgun is unaccounted for but there’s no real indication as to whether it may be stashed elsewhere in the home — which Nash and his girlfriend recently moved to — or if he may have taken it with him.

On Friday, the efforts to bring Nash home were refocused on several levels.  Alongside members of the Gwinnett County Police Department and sheriff’s office, Sargent orchestrated volunteer-centric ground searches in the neighborhoods and wooded areas in a five-mile radius around Nash’s home. Separated in groups, the volunteers fanned out to specific sectors to search and go door-to-door with flyers.

Search and rescue expert Tracy Sargent uses a map to show volunteers a search area near the Buford home of Kelly Nash, a 25-year-old Georgia Gwinnett College student missing since Monday, Jan. 5. (Photo: Tyler Estep)
Search and rescue expert Trace Sargent uses a map to show volunteers a search area near the Buford home
of Kelly Nash, a 25-year-old Georgia Gwinnett College student missing since Monday, January 5, 2015.
A frenzied group of volunteers back at the command center worked feverishly to mark large- and small-scale maps taped to the warehouse wall, identifying what areas had been searched, were being searched and would be searched. They also created information sheets for searchers to fill out upon their return.

Helicopter searches of nearby Lake Lanier were scheduled to be carried out by GCPD.

Behind the scenes, private investigator TJ Ward was working other angles. Ward — perhaps best known for his involvement in the Natalee Holloway missing persons investigation — was contacted by the Nash family on Wednesday and asked to work parallel to local law enforcement.

On Friday he was re-interviewing friends and family of Nash, looking for anything that may begin to explain his disappearance. Ward was also looking for possible clues tucked away in Nash’s cellphone, computers and social media accounts.
“There may be things that were discussed, there may be things that were going on that (other) people don’t know about,” Ward said. “I think it’s real important to talk to people that were close to him.”
Nash, a 6-foot-2 and 230-pound white male, was last seen wearing blue plaid pajama pants and likely put on tan Sperry boat shoes when he left his home. As of Friday afternoon, he had not been found.

Anyone with information regarding Nash or his whereabouts can contact Gwinnett County police at 770-513-5300; the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office at 770-619-6655; Ward at 678-356-0146; or the Nash family at

Updates can be found on Facebook at the page titled “Kelly Nash Missing.” The family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Nash’s return.