A Trail Gone Cold
Part 1 of the Unforgotten: Mont Highley series took us back to that fateful November night in 2003 when Mont Highley, IV, vanished from the quiet Macon County community of Shorter. The friends and family of the Highleys rallied together, law enforcement agencies scoured the land, and hope flickered amidst the darkness. But week after week, the search yielded no answers.
In Part 2, we delve deeper into the chilling enigma surrounding Mont’s unsolved murder.
Six weeks after law enforcement halted on-the-ground search efforts, a breakthrough occurred when Shorter resident Johnny Johnson made a chilling discovery. He contacted Keith Mann, a local game warden, to report a body in the unused silo behind the Back Forty, a restaurant owned by Johnson’s father, Ted. Dental records later confirmed the body to be that of Mont Highley. Moreover, the presence of Mont’s expensive watch and folded pants atop his body added an eerie mystery to the case.
This grim discovery sent shockwaves through the community. How did Mont’s body elude detection for so long, barely concealed in an old silo that had a missing door and sat next to a barn housing border collies just a quarter-mile (roughly) from the very area that had been meticulously scoured by countless searchers and K9s? Was his body purposely hidden, or did it simply go unnoticed despite the extensive efforts to find him?
The discovery of Mont’s body raised new questions and presented a critical opportunity for forensic experts to unearth vital information. Autopsies, forensic examinations, and thorough analyses of the crime scene – or scenes, potentially, in this case – became the linchpin of the investigation. Every strand of hair, every piece of fiber, and every microscopic trace left behind became a potential thread linking the investigators to the truth.
As the investigation into Mont’s death gained momentum, law enforcement agencies and forensic experts banded together to unravel the cryptic clues. However, the further they delved into the case, the more obscure it became. The mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance, now amplified by the discovery of his body, painted a harrowing picture of a crime deeply rooted in secrecy. The community held – and continues to hold – its breath, waiting for justice to break through the shadows and bring closure to the family.
Unfortunately, the journey toward justice is complex and fraught with challenges like insurmountable leads, false beginnings, and dead ends. Despite the collective determination and valuable information obtained, the truth behind Mont’s tragic demise remains elusive.
Witnesses recall seeing Mont’s Tahoe parked at the Segrest camp, where a small get-together was being held the night of Mont’s disappearance. Hours later, a dark-colored pickup truck was seen leaving the Highley camp in the early hours of the following day. Mont’s cell phone records revealed a final unanswered outgoing call at 9:35 p.m., raising further intrigue. Additionally, some individuals close to Mont exhibited reluctance to cooperate with the investigation, leaving investigators to wonder about their motives.
While the public’s attention initially focused on the search efforts and the discovery of Mont’s belongings, the subsequent developments in the investigation have been met with frustration and lingering doubts. The limited search conducted on the Segrest property, particularly around the area where Mont’s truck was found, has raised eyebrows and fueled speculation about unexplored potential leads. In addition, questions abound as to why authorities and volunteers were not allowed to search the entirety of the property owned by the Segrests, a family that had known not just Mont but the Highley family for years, and what vital clues may have been missed as a result.
Some speculate that Mont’s disappearance resulted from a chance encounter gone wrong, while others believe it was a targeted act of violence. The abandoned truck at the Segrest camp only adds to the intrigue, leaving investigators puzzled about how it ended up there and its significance in the puzzle.
Like many cases, Mont’s case has faced legal challenges over the years, including presentation to two grand juries in Macon and Montgomery Counties, respectively. Although the reasons behind the transfer remain speculative, it is clear that criminal proceedings have failed to yield charges or arrests.
The resolve of Mont’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Highley, remains unwavering. Driven by a father’s love, Dr. Highley pledged to uncover the truth behind his son’s disappearance, refusing to rest until justice is served.
Throughout the years, individuals who knew Mont or admired the Highley family’s character have come forward with valuable information. However, concerns about privacy and potential exposure have hindered progress. Investigators continue to stress the importance of those who interacted with Mont before his disappearance coming forward, as seemingly insignificant details may hold crucial significance when viewed within the broader context of the investigation.
With the 20th anniversary of Mont Highley’s murder just a few months away, it is a stark reminder that justice delayed is justice denied. Yet, the Highleys, alongside law enforcement agencies, continue to seek answers, propelled by the hope that someone, somewhere, possesses that crucial piece of information that will bring the truth to light.