43-year-old Norton man missing in Portage County's Berlin Wildlife Area

Atwater, Ohio - Authorities in Portage County have ended the ground search Saturday at the Berlin Lake Wildlife Area for a 45-year-old missing Norton man.

Jeffrey Hathaway of Norton was reported missing at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. The ODNR Division of Wildlife said Hathaway's car was found near the dog training area of the Berlin Lake Wildlife Area Thursday.

Portage County authorities picked-up the search there, setting up a mobile command post in that area on Friday.

Sheriff David Doak said foul play is not suspected, but Hathaway's family said this is unusual behavior.

"It's very strange, like I told a few people yesterday, very uncharacteristic of him not to let family know, his girlfriend know that he was going to be leaving for this amount of time so that's what really concerns us," said Matt Hathaway, Jeffrey Hathaway's son.

The Portage County Sheriff's office, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Army Corp of Engineering and the Portage County EMA were all involved in Friday's search as were Hathaway's family members.

"It's like looking for a needle in a hay stack," described an official. Maps show over 8 thousand acres are included in the Berlin Lake Wildlife Area.

Around 50 to 60 members of various departments were out again on Saturday, combing all paths, trails and places they thought Hathaway might have gone.  An issue for authorities is the amount of land that needs to be searched.

"There's hundreds of acres out here and it's thick-wooded underbrush, it's a tough place to search," said Portage County Sheriff Doak.

The 8,518-arce wildlife area extends into Stark and Mahoning counties, and stretches from Limaville to Deerfield to Berlin Center. According to ODNR, Berlin Lake's surface area is 3,590 during the summer, when it's being used to control flooding in southern Ohio.

Authorities suspended the search after spending close to seven hours on the ground Saturday.  Nothing was found in the wildlife area but the investigation still continues.

Anyone with information on Hathaway's whereabouts should call the Portage County Sheriff's office at (330) 678-7012.

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