Fast forward 19 years later, and the Highley family is still seeking justice for their son’s brutal murder. Their heartache and loss continue to resonate throughout the Shorter community.
On Thanksgiving day, Mont had dinner with his family, and despite being quieter than usual, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The next day – Friday, November 28 – Mont spent time with his parents, and before leaving for the family hunting camp in Shorter, he had a friendly conversation on the phone with an unknown individual.
Mont later made a call to his friend to ask if they’d like to go hunting, but the friend had other plans and was unable to join him that weekend. Before heading into the camp for the evening, he stopped by a gas station just off Exit 26 on County Road 30 around 7:00 p.m. to grab some beer. Based on phone records, he made a few more calls, with the last one being around 9:35 p.m.
What occurred after that remains a mystery.
When Dr. Highley arrived at the hunting camp the next day, he found the entry gate unlocked and the trailer door open with the lights on and TV blaring. Neither Mont nor his green Tahoe was anywhere to be found, leaving his father to assume that he had decided to change his plans and spend the day watching the Alabama-Hawaii game with his friends. Little did he know that this was the beginning of a mystery that would haunt his family for years to come.
It wasn’t until the following day – Sunday, November 30 – that Mont’s family received a phone call from Dale Segrest informing them that his truck had been found at the Segrest hunting camp two miles away from their own. Once they arrived, they found not only his truck, but also his keys, wallet, $200 in cash, briefcase, and rifle still inside.
The family began to search for Mont, calling friends and family and checking local hospitals. They even drove to their house on Lake Martin, hoping to find some sign of their son. But there was nothing to be found, and when they returned to the hunting camp, they noticed that something was not right. Mont’s boots were on the front porch, and his pants were on the bedroom floor, wet from the bottom to the upper thigh. His phone and $100 were in one of the pockets of his pants. It was a puzzling and heart-wrenching discovery that would drive the Highleys to file a missing person report, which set off a four-day search that would take a toll on the entire community.
With temperatures averaging the mid-40s and dropping to the mid-30s and below at night, the Highleys began to worry even more that Mont was lost in the woods, exposed to the elements without proper clothing. The cold weather added another layer of concern to their already frantic search for their son, and they knew that time was of the essence in finding him.
The following day, over 200 volunteers, law enforcement agencies, and even tracking dogs from Kilby Prison scoured the Highley property, combing through the woods and searching for any sign of Mont. The search led them to an area where the family golf cart, a handgun, and Mont’s sweater were found. Trailing dogs followed Mont’s scent from the Highley Camp to the Segrest camp to a property just across County Road 30 from the Segrest camp before losing it completely. But despite the discoveries, the search remained fruitless, with no clear indication of what had happened to Mont.
Over 19 years have passed since that fateful night, and the Highleys are still waiting for answers. Who was the friendly voice on the phone with Mont before he left his parents’ house? What happened to Mont’s truck, and why was it abandoned at a hunting camp miles away from where he was thought to be? And most importantly, who is responsible for the brutal murder of Mont Highley, IV?
Stay tuned for Part 2, A Trail Gone Cold.