An investigation is underway in the death of a Buena Vista man who went missing one year ago, according to the Virginia State Police.

Chad Austin, 30, disappeared on Memorial Day last year after heading out to the Panther Falls area, east of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Austin’s car was later found on the turnoff for Panther Falls Road, in Amherst County, with his beloved dog shut inside.

Authorities searched for Austin for months before discovering human remains in the area in March.

On Monday, investigators said those remains had been identified as Austin. State and local authorities urged anyone with information about the case to come forward.

Austin’s family, which had been tirelessly searching for him, deserves answers, said Buena Vista Police Chief Richard Hartman.

“We intend to find those answers as we continue to pursue this investigation in partnership with state police,” he said.

The state police are now leading the investigation in coordination with Buena Vista, Amherst County and other agencies.

Special Agent K.A. Zirkle said investigators have been aggressively pursuing leads and documenting evidence from the beginning.

“Make no mistake, much headway has been made in the last year,” he said. “A number of people have already come forward — and we are grateful for their trust — but those who have been reluctant are still encouraged to call the Virginia State Police.”

Anyone with information should contact the Virginia State Police’s criminal investigations bureau at 800-542-5959 or 540-375-9589. Tips also can be shared by email at

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