Missing Floyd County lawyer found in Texas campground

bestep@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2013 

The mystery of what happened to a well-known Floyd County lawyer who disappeared four months ago has been solved. The mystery of his whereabouts, at least.

Friends were concerned Clyde Johnson had died when he went missing June 24, but police confirmed finding him at a campground in Port O'Connor, Texas, which is on the Gulf of Mexico north of Corpus Christi, said Ned Pillersdorf, a friend of Johnson's.

As to why Johnson chucked his old life, he hasn't explained that.

Pillersdorf said he was told that when a Texas police officer approached Johnson at the campground this week, Johnson told the officer he was fine and to leave him alone.

Johnson, who is married but has no children, "pulled a Jimmy Buffett," Pillersdorf said, referring to a song in which the character contemplates sailing away to get out of dealing with "the daily unadulterated crap."

"Sometimes people just get tired of dealing with the unadulterated crap and sail away," Pillersdorf said.

The weather forecast in Port O'Connor Thursday was for sunshine and a high of 81 degrees.

Johnson, 47, was a fixture in Floyd County, representing more than 100 clients, serving as president of the county bar association and helping coach high school football.

Johnson had been through a difficult time, however. His mother had died and his home was in foreclosure. He also owed $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, Pillersdorf said.

In June, Johnson paid $8,000 for a camper, without his wife's knowledge. Johnson told his secretary that he was going to take his dog, Pete, and go fishing, and would not be back until June 24.

He left town pulling his camper with a Nissan SUV. He had Pete, a good bit of cash and clothing, and his Xbox.

When Johnson didn't come back, state police opened a missing-person investigation. Friends searched campgrounds around the area, and Pillersdorf printed up fliers to distribute.

"People were really upset here," Pillersdorf said. "We were expecting a call from a coroner."

Rumors swirled about why Johnson had disappeared, including that he had stolen money. That was not true, Pillersdorf said.

Indications began to filter in that Johnson was alive and taking steps to conceal his whereabouts.

Pillersdorf had access to Johnson's mail and email because a judge had appointed him to maintain Johnson's office and help his clients get their files.

One thing he saw was an itinerary that showed Johnson had stayed at a campground in Bowling Green the day he disappeared, and then moved on to a campground in Little Rock, Ark., the next night.

Also, Johnson's wife of 19 years, Rose, spotted a card in the trash at his office indicating he had bought a prepaid cell phone.

Pillersdorf got a court order for access to the phone account and found calls to a campground near Austin, Tex., Pillersdorf said.

The final clue was a letter. When Johnson checked in at the campground in Port O'Connor, he listed Texas as his address, but used his real name and the same box number as his office in Kentucky. He listed the town as Prestonburg, without an S, Pillersdorf said.

That turned out to be close enough.

When the campground sent an electricity bill for $139 to the address, it ended up with Pillersdorf in Prestonsburg.

Pillersdorf called the campground, which confirmed Johnson was there. Police talked personally with Johnson Wednesday at the request of one of his family members, Pillersdorf said.

The concern many people had for Johnson when he left has turned to anger because he didn't let anyone know he was okay, particularly his wife, who has been hurt and had a hard time dealing with Johnson's disappearance, Pillersdorf said.

"It's just bizarre," he said of the case.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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