ELKTON — A man with schizophrenia who had been missing for eight days was found dead over the weekend in the Elk River, a short walking distance from his Elkton residence, and an investigation is continuing to determine how he wound up in the water and what caused his death, according to the Elkton Police Department.
EPD Lt. Lawrence Waldridge, an agency spokesman, told the Cecil Whig that a resident discovered the body of William Paul “Billy” Acklin, 28, at approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday in “less than two feet of water during an extremely low tide” on a section of the Elk River that runs by a community park in the Kensington Courts neighborhood.
The resident was visiting the Kensington Courts community park, which has one pier, when he noticed Acklin’s body “about 35 yards off shore,” Waldridge reported.
Acklin had been last seen walking away from his residence in that Kensington Courts neighborhood at approximately 4:45 a.m. on Jan. 15, some eight days earlier.
On Tuesday, with the investigation still ongoing, Waldridge explained that he and investigators were not in a position to comment on the possibility of foul play and, by the same token, the possibility that Acklin’s death was accidental.
“We are waiting on autopsy results right now, and we hope to know more about the cause of death when we get them,” Waldridge said, adding that Acklin’s body was transported to the Maryland Office of the State Medical Examiner in Baltimore after it had been recovered on Saturday.
Officers with several law enforcement agencies, as well as members of two volunteer groups, spent numerous hours last week searching for Acklin in that Kensington Courts community park and the surrounding area, including the river, according to Waldridge.
“We found (security camera) video that showed him at the park’s entrance gate around 5 a.m. on (Jan. 15)” Waldridge said, noting that approximately 15 minutes earlier Acklin had been seen walking away from his Kensington Courts residence.
Waldridge continued, “So we targeted our search in that area. We spent about 12 hours searching just on that first day alone (when he was reported missing), and then we were back in that area several times during the week for incremental searches. All of last week we surveyed that area.”
In addition to foot searches by EPD officers, other law enforcement agencies and volunteer groups combed the targeted area, according to Waldridge.
The list includes specially trained and licensed Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputies performing hover searches with drones; Natural Resources Police officers making two runs on the Elk River in an agency boat; a Delaware State Police helicopter crew conducting aerial searches; trained members of Chesapeake Search & Rescue, which is a volunteer organization, conducting pattern canvasses and following the leads of scent dogs; and Acklin’s family and friends carrying out independent searches.
It’s likely that high tides on the Elk River negatively impacted searches on and along that waterway, according to Waldridge, who commented, “We don’t know where (along the river) he went into the water and we don’t know when he entered the water.”
Shortly after Acklin had been reported missing by his family, EPD investigators posted Acklin’s photo along with information about him and his disappearance on the agency’s Facebook page, asking for the public’s help in finding him. “The family of William (Acklin) reported he was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been prescribed medication,” one portion of that missing-person notice read.
Investigators also posted missing-person fliers throughout Elkton.
Using special boats, members of Charlestown Volunteer Fire Company and Singerly Volunteer Fire Company of Elkton recovered Acklin’s body after it was discovered on Saturday, according to Waldridge.