Franklin County authorities said a father and teenage son who had been missing for more than a week were located Thursday evening in the Moselle area east of St. Clair.
Michael Hill, 36, and his son, David Hill, 16, were located at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday on land where they had been camping off of Mill Spring Road.
Except for multiple bug bites, the two appeared to be unharmed, Sheriff Gary Toelke said.
According to the sheriff, the son went to a home in the area about 5 p.m. to ask for water, and the resident later called the sheriff’s office and said the teen was last seen walking west along the railroad tracks.
Deputies responded to the area and began walking the tracks. At a point near Mill Spring Road, they noticed footprints in the mud leading away from the tracks. They followed them and heard people talking in the woods.
During questioning, the father told deputies they were heading for Branson, Mo., the sheriff said. St. Louis County Police Public Information Officer Randy Vaughan told The Missourian on Friday that Michael Hill’s mother lives in Branson and the two were on their way to stay with her.
“Our investigators were called in after they were located,” Vaughan said. “It was determined that they both were safe and that the 16-year-old was not in danger.”
The sheriff said the two, from Illinois, had been staying in a tent in the area. Vaughan said they had some money in their possession.
Authorities have been searching for the two since they were last seen on July 2 in the Pacific Palisades area along the Meramec River in western St. Louis County.
Michael Hill’s wife reported them missing after the man and his son told family members they were going fishing and did not return.
The men were last seen on foot in the area of the river access carrying bags that possibly contained fishing equipment, police said.
Officers searched the river extensively, but found no evidence that the Hills had drowned.
Late last week, authorities found some evidence indicating that the two were in the Moselle area. A search was launched from the Chouteau Claim river access off of Highway AH on Friday evening, July 5. The Meramec and Bourbeuse rivers meet at that access area.
Vaughan said the father’s dog tags were among the items found in a bag under a railroad trestle not too far from the access point.
“That specifically told us they were there and that they had not drowned,” Vaughan said. “We were absolutely confident at that time that they were still alive.”
Vaughan said St. Louis County investigators questioned the father and son after they were found, and then they were released.
“There still do not appear to be any crimes committed,” he said.
Vaughan said the Hills said they thought there was an ongoing search for them, but they did not know for sure.
The PIO said he did not know why the two of them decided to walk along the railroad tracks to Branson after leaving Pacific Palisades, which is estimated to be about 12 to 15 miles away.
He did say, however, that Michael Hill decided on the spur of the moment to leave his wife and to take his son with him.
“He said it was not planned, but a spontaneous thing,” Vaughan said. “It appears to have been a domestic situation that had been increasing.”
The family from northern Illinois was visiting the St. Louis area and had been staying in a cabin near Eureka, authorities said.
“There was a lot of time, effort and money spent on this case,” Vaughan said. “We couldn’t be happier that everyone is safe. Hopefully, this case is closed.”