Body found may be that of boater missing since May 11

By Abby Morris
   Star Staff
   amorris@starhq.com
   BUTLER -- A body found by two men late Tuesday morning in the Roans Creek area of Watauga Lake is believed to be that of a man who has been missing since May 11 when his boat was found abandoned near Midway Marina.
   According to Bill Harry, owner of Midway Marina, the body was found at approximately 11 a.m. on Tuesday by two men who had been on the lake trying out a boat. "They came in here and of course they were shook up," he said, adding that while he went out on the lake to retrieve the body, his wife contacted the Johnson County Rescue Squad to informed them the body had been discovered.
   The body was found floating in the open water and, according to Harry, was covered with mud. "He had been right out there the whole time," he said. "The body had to have been down on the bottom."
   According to Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) District Supervisor, Tim Sain, there has been no positive identification of the body at this time and no cause of death has been established. Sain stated that he assumes an autopsy will be ordered. "That will be coordinated through the District Attorney's office, the Quillen College of Medicine, and the Johnson County Sheriff's Department," he said.
   James Elliot Lanza, 50, of Boone, N.C., was determined to be missing when Harry, and another man, Charlie Winebarger, found his 1996 green and white cabin cruiser floating in the water.
   At the time of his disappearance, TWRA officers with the aid of Johnson County Sheriff's Department officials and personnel from the Johnson County Rescue Squad conducted a search of the water surface and the shore line. On May 29, TWRA investigators and members of the Tennessee Search and Rescue Dog Association continued to search the lake using cadaver dogs.
   Harry stated on Tuesday that he believes that the body found that day is that of Lanza. "It was about 1,500 feet from where we spotted the boat the first time," he said. Harry reported that he was sitting at the marina shortly before 6 p.m. on May 11 when he noticed the boat in the lake. Later that evening, Harry and Winebarger saw the boat drifting toward a sea wall at the edge of the lake and decided to investigate it.
   The boat was abandoned when Harry and Winebarger found it. The key was still in the ignition switch, which was still in the "on" position, but the engine on the boat was not running. Winebarger boarded the boat and attempted to start it but it would not start. Harry and Winebarger then towed the boat back to the marina.
   Several people were beginning to believe that Lanza would not be found in the lake, Harry said, adding that many rumors to what may have happened to him were circulating. "Nobody believed he was still in the lake," he said. "They even had me convinced that he wasn't in there."
   Harry has his own theory about what happened to Lanza, saying he believes Lanza's cabin cruiser may have had an engine malfunction and Lanza decided to attempt to swim ashore to get help. "The water was real rough that day," Harry said. "He may have overestimated his swimming ability."