Derek Joseph Lueking

Lueking, circa 2012; Lueking's tattoo

  • Missing Since 03/17/2012
  • Missing From Cherokee, North Carolina
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 05/13/1987 (36)
  • Age 24 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'10 - 6'0, 215 - 225 pounds
  • 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. Possibly carrying camouflage-print Realtree rain gear and a black or dark blue bookbag-type day pack.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) White Ford Escape (accounted for)
  • 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 with this case summary.

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.

He 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.

Investigating Agency

  • National Park Service 828-497-1940

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated September 23, 2017; picture added, clothing/jewelry description updated.