Details of Disappearance
Rouse was seen at a party on Swamp Road in Waycross, Georgia shortly after 12:00 a.m. on May 11, 1991. He may have left between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. He has never been heard from again.
An officer discovered Rouse's abandoned vehicle at the entrance to Okefenokee Swamp Park on U.S. Highway 1 in Ware County, Georgia later in the day. The car had been left idling, with the radio playing and the window rolled down. A carton of cigarettes, a lighter, a full bottle of beer and Rouse's clothes and shoes were located inside the vehicle. The car was out of gas and the battery was low when the Thunderbird was located. Investigators are uncertain as to who drove Rouse's vehicle to the park entrance. He has never been heard from again.
Rouse was charged with driving while intoxicated earlier in 1991, but his loved ones said that it would be uncharacteristic of him to leave the area as a result of the arrest. He may have had a limited edition single-action .45 caliber Colt pistol with pearl handles and a gold-plated trigger and hammer with him when he vanished. Authorities discovered a pistol in the Swamp Road area after Rouse vanished, but the weapon has never been connected to his case.
Craig Lester Thrift, Rouse's cousin, was charged with his murder in March 2012. A photo of him is posted below this case summary. The two men were good friends and worked together at the Thrift family's concrete business, but Rouse was reportedly having an affair with Thrift's wife. Thrift had been a suspect since early on in the investigation and had refused to take a polygraph test. Early in 2012, several witnesses told authorities he had confessed the murder to them: he said he assaulted Rouse during an argument, then shot him to death and hid the body. Thrift was found not guilty of malice murder in April 2014, but convicted of a lesser charge of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison. He will be up for parole in 2019.
Rouse resided in South Carolina prior to 1991. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.
Above: Craig Thrift in 2012