Full Name: Derek Joseph Lueking
Nickname(s): “Drock”, “DJ”
From: Blount County, Louisville, TN
Missing From: Cherokee, Swain County, NC
Missing Since: 03/17/12
Age Then: 24
Age Now: 25
Race: White Sex: Male
Height: 5’10”- 6’0″
Weight: 215 -225 lbs.
Hair: Brown (receding hairline, about 1/2 IN long at the time he disappeared)
Other: Derek has no hair on torso, darker hair on arms and legs, short beard about 1/2 IN long, stretch marks around lower back area. He has a tattoo on left upper side of his chest of the word “live” or “life” in Japanese lettering. He wears prescription eyeglasses with metal rims which he wears on occasion for driving, etc.
Clothing/Items: Last seen wearing dark color track pants with white strips down each leg, dark athletic sneakers, dark blue or black book bag, and possibly a waterproof watch, a Bear Grylls survival tool pack (including a multi tool, small flashlight, fire starter rod), a Gerber pack axe, Several pages of a military survival manual, a knife sharpener, a Coleman compass/thermometer, 100’ of black parachute cord, a head lamp, pocket knife, IPod Touch and some granola bars.
It’s been over one year since Derek Lueking, a Blount County man, went missing. According to media reports he was seen leaving the Microtel Inn and Suites in Cherokee, NC on the morning of March 17, 2012 in his white Ford Escape. That same vehicle was discovered abandoned at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near the Tennessee and North Caroline state line. While his vehicle was located at the Newfound Gap area, no one in and around the area could verify him being inside or outside the park.
Searches were conducted in the immediate area and according to The Daily Times a note was discovered in the missing man’s vehicle which read “Don’t try to follow me”.
However, Derek’s father had posted a letter regarding his son’s disappearance on Help Find Derek, a Facebook group created which has over 800 followers. The letter says;
MESSAGE FROM DEREK’S DAD………I know many of you have questions concerning Derek’s disappearance and have seen conflicting information in the news reports. I have put together the following information in the hopes of clarifying questions you may have.
Derek went missing Wednesday March 14th from his home in Louisville Tennessee. Over the next two days he purchased over $1000 in camping supplies from Bass Pro Shop, Knifeworks and Coleman’s. We believe he stayed at the Motel 6 on the 14th, the Smokemont Campground in the Park on the 15th and the Microtel Hotel in Cherokee on the 16th. His car was found March 17th at 8:30am at Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains after family saw him leave the Microtel Hotel alone in Cherokee, North Carolina through video footage at 4:00am. A note stating only “Don’t Look For Me” was found in his car along with wallet and car key. The note was not addressed to anyone, so it could have been for us or the rangers.
The Great Smoky Mountain Park Service have never quit searching for Derek as they repelled down some high cliffs March 29th and did not find anything. The Rangers, Park employee’s, volunteer’s and Trail runner continue to look for him. Rangers are also still looking into the investigation aspect of this case following up purchases he made and trying to find out if there are any other significant clues in the recent past. We are extremely grateful for their continued efforts.
Derek was a fan of the survivalist Bear Gryll’s TV show and theoretically he did have the necessary supplies to live in the woods for a long period of time, but he did not take all the camping gear he purchased. We believe he had at least a backpack, a waterproof watch, a Bear Grylls survival tool pack (including a multi tool, small flashlight, firestarter rod), a Gerber pack axe, Several pages of a military survival manual, a knife sharpener, a compass/thermometer, 100’ of black parachute cord, a head lamp, pocket knife, IPod Touch and some granola bars. He also purchased additional supplies from Wal-Mart for cash (5 empty bags were found in the car with opened packaging listing Wal-Mart), but we have not been able to confirm what he purchased. Appalachian trail hikers who have talked to the family have said that Derek could survive for a long time with the supplies he had.
Searchers have hiked hundreds of miles of trails the weeks after his disappearance which included using multiple dog sent trackers, three different days using helicopters, and one night helicopter. Unfortunately no significant clues were found leading to Derek, but Rangers still believe he is in the park somewhere possibly off trail.
The Park Service initially asked our family not to search directly for Derek to avoid contaminating clues and wanted trained park service searcher on the trails, so we handed out flier with Derek’s picture to everyone who hit the trails. As the Park Service’s direct search wound down we started. Our family, and friends along with other concerned people gathered the 24th and 25th of March to search for Derek. A total of over 60 people show up to hike and hand out flyers. Hikers that showed up hiked a total of about 175 miles of trail and people handed out about 3000 flyers to people in the park and the surrounding areas.
There is still the possibility that Derek is not in the Great Smoky National Park, so we would like to make sure the information about him is available to the public.
The family has not given up home on finding Derek and is doing anything in their power to work with and help the rangers who are investigating as well as trying to make sure the information is out in the world as well. There is a Facebook page Find Derek Lueking that the family is keeping up to inform anyone interested about the case. Please help spread word to anyone hiking in the Smoky Mountain area to keep an eye out for Derek.
Find Derek Lueking is another Facebook page created by loved ones which have over 2,000 followers. There are many photos of Derek on the Facebook page. Each photo shows a smiling, outgoing, young man. It also shows a man who enjoys nature and being outdoors.
Case Number: 12-1076
If you have any information regarding this case you’re asked to please contact:
National Park Service
US Park Ranger Joshua Frazier