The Disappearance of Ken Mohler

This is a story I’ve heard in one form or another for years since a family acquaintance set up the mill where Ken worked in 2005 or so, and occasionally serviced equipment, meeting Ken once or twice. Unfortunately, that person has since died, so I can’t really ask him his impressions of the situation.

Ken Mohler disappeared from his place of work at Gregory Wood Products in Newton, NC on August 17th, 2012. He has never been seen or heard from since that day.

At the time this all happened, Gregory Wood Products was based near Statesville, but had recently built a state of the art mill in the Newton/Conover area off highway 321.

Video of the plant shortly after it was put into operation.

It was a huge, expensive undertaking, but resulted in a state of the art lumber mill that should have been extremely profitable. I have heard descriptions of the mill as being “elevated”, with most of the equipment in the building sitting over the concrete pad which allowed easy access to most of the machinery from underneath. Around the 9:20 mark in the video above, you can sort of see what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the market suffered a severe downturn about the time it was built, and it was apparently always a struggle to keep it going. The 2008/2009 years were particularly bad, and lumber was hard to come by in the area where they built the mill. I have read they sometimes might have missed getting paychecks to Ken when he was due them, and while I can’t 100% confirm this, it seems likely from the people I have talked to about those years. Money was stretched very thin.
The company finally filed for bankruptcy about a year after Ken disappeared, reforming later on, and now are currently in business with a new name, though they lost the new mill in the process.

I don’t know much about Ken’s duties at Gregory, but if he was anything like the other employee I’ve talked to, he was likely a jack-of-all trades, fixing or working on whatever needed maintenance, and doing any other tasks that were put on him to keep things running. I have read some people refer to Ken as a “security guard”, but I find that highly unlikely.
However, Gregory had been burglarized several times already. It’s rural address and isolated location well off the main road made it an easy target.
The most recent burglary occurred a couple months before the night Ken vanished. A $100 side grinder, three chainsaws worth over $1,000, and assorted tools and drill bits were stolen that night in February. It’s not beyond reason to assume Ken might have been asked to keep a watch on things at night, but on the night he disappeared, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the property.

So, lets look at the timeline.

Thursday, 8/16/2012
4:00-4:30 PM Ken is working at home on some drywalling. He is not scheduled to work at the mill this particular Thursday, but recieves either a text or call from his boss about a water leak at the mill. Ken leaves for the mill around 4:30. Regardless of what route he took, it’s about a 20 minute drive south from Hickory where Ken lived to the mill in Newton. Ken likely got there just before 5PM.

5:00 PM Ken arrives and likely begins working on the water leak. During this time some reports say a truck driver may have been overnight parked at the facility, leaving early Friday morning. According to Ken’s family, that driver was interviewed by police and his story checked out, so he is not a person of interest.

7:30 Ken texts his wife to say the leak has been fixed. Says he should be home within the hour.

8:05 Ken texts his boss to say the leak has been fixed.

8:30 PM This is about the time Ken should have arrived home, depending on what he had to clean up after fixing the leak.

10:00 PM According to Ken’s wife, she assumes Ken has had something else come up at the mill and goes to bed.

Friday 8/17/2012
About 7:00 AM One of Ken’s coworkers arrives to find Ken’s truck at the mill with keys in the ignition and Ken nowhere in sight. When he called Ken’s cellphone he heard it ringing somewhere outside and eventually found the phone “buried” in some dirt. The coworker then called 911.

8:30 AM
By now, the search is in full swing, with the local sheriff’s deptartment out in full force. They searched the mill and surrounding property for 7 hours. Sometime during this 7 hours, Ken’s wife shows up at the mill looking for Ken after having been shopping that morning. Only a few clues are reported to have been found:

  1. Ken’s glasses, which he needed to see properly were found in the bed of Ken’s truck.
  2. Ken’s keys and phone are found on the property under some dirt.
  3. Police do not elaborate, but say there may be “signs of a struggle” at the scene.
  4. According to the Charley Project, “a piece of “flesh-like material” with red stains consistent with blood, and white hair, was located in some soil on the property. DNA testing later proved the “flesh-like material” was Mohler’s“. This claim is corroborated by a local paper called The Hickory Daily Record in an article dated August 16th, 2019.

Since his disappearance, no leads have panned out. Several local ponds were searched without any further advancement of the case. Every so often local news stations will run a blurb about the case, and there has been a reward offered for info ($5,000 at current IIRC). But, if the local department knows anything else beyond what has been released to the public, they’re sitting on it.
Also via the Charley Project, In 2017, “a witness told police she’d overheard two men, who were drunk, talk about killing Mohler. Supposedly, they were stealing from the lumberyard when Mohler caught them, and in the struggle he was unintentionally killed.” The men apparently claimed to have dumped Ken’s body in an old well. As a result, police dug up an old well near the site of the lumber mill on 2019. Nothing was found and the men have never been charged.

Then there’s the radio show. I had never heard of “Bring Them Home Now”, but Ken’s family participated in an episode of this show talking about his disappearance. Several interesting details came to light during the course of that program. Among them, that Ken and his wife were thinking or planning a divorce, and that Ken was the sole custodial guardian of his wife’s grand daughter. It’s a bizarre interview, the host peppering Ken’s wife with some pretty direct questions about the situation. The host, quite frankly, seems abrasive and seems to suspect the family is somehow involved in Ken’s disappearance, but she does pull out some details that weren’t common knowledge. The link for that show will be below.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what fate befell Ken Mohler. Whatever happened, Ken is still missing.

Kenneth’s Charley Project Page

Segment from local news station about Ken’s disappearance

Article from the Hickory Daily Record

“Bring Them Home Now” radio show

If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of Ken Mohler, please contact the Catawba County Sheriff’s Department at 828-465-8344

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