Derek Joseph Lueking

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Above Images: Lueking, circa 2012


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: March 17, 2012 from Cherokee, North Carolina
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: May 13, 1987
  • Age: 24 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'10 - 6'0, 215 - 225 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Lueking's nickname is Drock and he may go by his initials, DJ. He had a half-inch beard at the time of his disappearance and he may wear prescription eyeglasses with metal rims for diving. He has stretch marks on his lower back and a tattoo of Japanese characters meaning "live" or "life" on his left upper chest. A photo of the tattoo is posted below this case summary.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A gray hooded sweatshirt, dark-colored track pants with a white stripe down the side of each leg, dark-colored sneakers and possibly a waterproof watch. Carrying a black or dark blue bookbag-type day pack.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Lueking was last seen leaving the Microtel Inn and Suites in Cherokee, North Carolina at 4:00 a.m. on March 17, 2012. He has never been heard from again. His white Ford Escape was found at the Newfound Gap area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near the Tennessee/North Caroline state line at 8:30 a.m., but no one recalled having seen Lueking himself at the park, and his family had been trying to find him since before he would have arrived there. Inside the vehicle was a note saying simply: "Don't follow me."

    Lueking had purchased maps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a sleeping bag and a tent, as well as the following supplies: a Gerber ax, part of a military survival manual, a knife sharpener, a Coleman combination compass and thermometer, 100 feet of black paracute cord, a headlamp, a pocket knife, granola bars, an iPod pouch, and a Bear Grylls survival tool pack including a small flashlight, a fire starter and a multi-tool. He left many of these items in his car, however, including the tent and sleeping bag.

    Lueking was born in northern Virginia. He graduated from Johnson University and previously worked as an aide for the Peninsula Behavioral Health Center in Tennessee. His family stated he was an avid camper and a fan of a survival television show, and they think he may have gone into the park intentionally to spend some time alone. The circumstances of his disappearance are unclear and his case remains unsolved.

    Above: Lueking's tattoo


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    National Park Service


    Source Information
    The Daily Times
    The Smoky Mountain News
    The Knoxville News Sentinel
    Facebook Page for Derek Lueking


    Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 2, 2016; six pictures added.

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