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Texas team to help in search for 18-year-old
$50K donated to reward

SNELLVILLE - Nearly two weeks since Justin Gaines vanished from a Duluth nightclub, searchers hunting for the 18-year-old have called in the cavalry, so to speak.

Leaders with the grass-roots campaign to find Gaines have enlisted the Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team - a network of volunteers bent on finding missing people around the United States.

A search leader said more than 200 EquuSearch members arrived Tuesday in Gwinnett to meet with Gaines' family and establish a headquarters in Lilburn.

They planned a 9 a.m. search today beginning at Berkmar United Methodist Church at 675 Pleasant Hill Road in Lilburn.

Typically on horseback, Texas EquuSearch members have access to resources like airplanes, search dogs, infrared cameras and trained divers.

The group was involved this week in finding the body of Benjamin Stanford, the 17-year-old grandson of an Alabama senator found in Carroll County, said Karen Beyers, a search leader who called EquuSearch's director, Tim Miller, last week.

"(Miller) has all kinds of abilities to find people. He's worked on cases all over the country," Beyers said. "We need all the help we can get."

Requests to interview EquuSearch leaders Tuesday were not returned. The nonprofit has 350 members and is operated solely by donations, according to the group's Web site.

Also on Tuesday, Beyers said an anonymous donor pledged a $50,000 reward for Gaines' safe return. She was unsure if the donor is a Gwinnett resident, she said.

That sum complements money offered in the Justin Gaines Reward Fund, which reached $10,000 for information on Gaines whereabouts. Search leaders have also established a Web site, www.justingaines.com, that acts as an online deposit for new information.

Gaines, a Brookwood High grad, was last seen Nov. 1 at Wild Bill's nightclub.

The Gainesville State College student came home from Athens, went out for the night and was last heard from about 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, when he called a friend for a ride home.

Police describe the missing man as 5 feet, 11 inches, 210 pounds with a muscular build. He has blue eyes and short brown hair.

Cpl. Illana Spellman, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Police Department, said the investigation has slowed recently as some of Gaines' friends have failed to cooperate.

"This is a concern for the detectives working this case," said Spellman. Thus far, she said evidence in the case does not suggest or deny foul play.

Beyers said she couldn't explain investigators' concerns.

"I'm surprised the police have frustrations," Beyers said. "I don't know what's changed to cause that. I know they've talked to a lot of kids."

Police urge anyone with information about Gaines' disappearance to call the criminal investigations section at 770-513-5300.