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Missing man found dead in South Toledo

The Blade - 12/28/2017

Dec. 28--A 67-year-old patient missing since early Sunday from a South Toledo elder care center was found dead Wednesday near Angola Road, less than a mile from where he was last seen, police said.

Jeffrey Millns was found about noon by a relative in a field near the 800 block of Butterfield Drive, just east of Wentz Road between Angola and South Street, police said.

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He was reported missing about 9:20 a.m. Sunday from Parkcliffe Memory Care Center, 4217 Parkcliff Dr., after staff could not locate him for breakfast. He was last seen about 5 a.m. that day, a police report said.

Mr. Millns, who was the long-time owner of the former Joe I. Cooper Florist shops, had been diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes, and had moved into the Alzheimer's facility within the last couple months, family members said.

Molly Petersen, a niece of Mr. Millns, and Nancy Ransom, Mr. Millns' sister, were among six relatives of the close-knit family that combed the neighborhood of the care center after learning he was missing. Ms. Petersen said Mr. Millns left the facility in only his pajamas.

"We were hoping for a miracle. This is not the outcome we were hoping for," Ms. Petersen said.

The initial reaction from family members after learning he was missing, she said, was that he couldn't have strayed far from the facility because of health issues that made walking difficult.

"He could not walk fast. He fell a lot. We knew he couldn't have made it far. That is why we thought it was important to search the area near the care center," Ms. Petersen said.

Wayne Bucher, president of Parkcliffe Memory Care Community said in a written statement Wednesday evening he and the staff were "devastated" by Mr. Millns' death, calling him "a kind soul" and said they "cared deeply for him and his family."

"We continue to investigate to fully understand how this came to happen," Mr. Bucher wrote in part. "At the same time, we're working to support the Toledo Police Department in their investigation. We will better be able to comment once those investigations are complete."

Mr. Millns started working for a local flower shop in Toledo at age 16 after a florist sponsored him for a Boy Scout banquet. He graduated from Ohio State University with a horticulture degree, worked in a Pittsburgh florist shop, and returned to Toledo to manage a local shop before acquiring Joe I. Cooper in 1976 from Joe and Alberta Cooper.

He had worked at the couple's store in a shopping plaza on South Byrne Road and Heatherdowns Boulevard for two years before buying it. In 1978, he expanded the business to open two stores -- one in One Seagate in downtown Toledo and another store in Waterville, where he lived for many years.

He closed the store in One Seagate in 2001 and the shop in Waterville about three years ago.

Ms. Petersen said her uncle -- a life-long bachelor -- was the relative who cherished family gatherings and holidays, archived ancestorial photographs, and made sure the graves of family were honored with flowers.

"He was the one to throw the party. He was very particular about having the perfect aestetics," she said. "As a florist, holidays were extremely important to him. He didn't have children. He wasn't married. He was the one in the family who kept the memories alive."

Mr. Millns was a strong supporter and board member of the Toledo Animal Shelter and attended St. Patrick's Historic Church.

Much of the search for Mr. Millns was focused on Swan Creek Preserve, which is located south of the senior care facility.

Joe Fausnaugh, chief of operations for the Metroparks Toledo, said staff began canvassing the 419-acre park after being alerted Sunday about Mr. Milln's disappearance.

"We concentrated on the Airport Highway side of the park, closer to where he was reported missing," he said.

The hunt continued into Tuesday, when Toledo police sent up two drones to conduct aerial searchs of parklands and the surrounding area.

News of the missing senior citizen reached Christian Aid Ministries, which conducts search-and-rescue operations throughout the United States and other countries. A team of 30 volunteers from Ohio and western Pennsylvania arrived in Toledo Tuesday night to begin Wednesday's search efforts.

Marcus Miller, a crew leader from Preble County who organized the search, said the volunteers took off on foot at 8 a.m. from Parcliffe Memory Care Center to begin a one-mile-radius search.

He said they completed about one-third of that area when they were told Mr. Millns had been found.

"We always hope to find the person we are looking for alive," he said. "Our goal as a team is to bring closure to the family and bring relief. That is what we are there for; to be there for the family and missing person."

The body was taken to the Lucas County Coroner's office, where a decision will be made Thursday to conduct an autopsy.

Contact Mark Reiter at markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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