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April 23, 2014

Missing teen’s hat found washed up on creek shoreline

BREMEN — A hat belonging to a missing Cullman County teenager was found Tuesday afternoon washed up near the shoreline of Lick Creek where the 18-year-old was last seen early Easter morning.

Billy Ray Wren, 18, was reported missing by family members on Tuesday morning after relatives and friends searched for him on Sunday and Monday. Wren was last seen fishing around 1 a.m. Sunday morning on Lick Creek, a tributary of Smith Lake in the Bremen area on County Road 68. Wren’s cousin Shanda Brown said she made phone calls and gathered multiple family members and friends to help search for the teen.

“We got everyone together and have been looking ever since,” Brown said. “He caught a fish with his hands the other day and thought it was the coolest thing, so he’s been out here fishing since. I’ve always let my boys come to the creek and never gave it a second thought. I won’t think that way anymore.”

Brown said when law enforcement found Wren’s hat, she had a sinking feeling in her heart.

“It was a red flat bill hat, with a logo on the front, it was for MMA or Tapout or something like that, and he loved that hat,” Brown said. “He bought it with his own money and he was proud of it. He even slept in that thing. He would not have left here without it.”

Multiple search and rescue teams continued to go through the area where Wren was last seen early Sunday morning. The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Cullman County Dive Team, Cullman County Rescue Squad, Colony search and rescue, and dozens of volunteers were all on scene searching the area.

Major Scott Clay said law enforcement found the hat across the creek from where Wren was last seen and marked the spot with a white buoy. Investigators also designated the area where Wren’s wet jacket and fishing rod were found Sunday.

The American Red Cross was also present to provide food and water to family members and those participating in the search.

Fairview resident and Wren’s cousin Heather Bivins was among those searching for her lost relative.

“He’s loved, whether he realizes it or not, he’s loved,” Bivins said.

 * Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.

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