Bridgeman vigil

People gathered in Nelsonville Saturday for a vigil in memory of Kyle Bridgeman, whose body was discovered in early November by law enforcement.

Officials believe a body found in the Wayne National Forest on Wednesday is that of Kyle Bridgeman of Nelsonville, who has been missing for more than five months.

Acting on information obtained through the investigation into his disappearance, law enforcement discovered the body was discovered near Bridgeman's home close to the intersection of Matheny and Huddy Roads in Nelsonville, Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith said.

Smith extended his condolences to Bridgeman's family.

“It didn't turn out the way anyone wanted it to,” Smith said.

The area where the body believed to Bridgeman's was discovered is within the Wayne National Forest. The forest is among multiple places around the county searched by Bridgeman's family and friends since June 4.

Linda Johnson, Bridgeman's grandmother, said she did not understand why someone would kill Bridgeman, who she said was "good-hearted kind person."

“I don't understand it — and for him to be so close to home — I don't understand,” Johnson said.  “Nobody would say anything to us.”

Bridgeman, 30, was reported missing on June 7. His family said that hewent to buy a video game from someone on June 4 but never came back, his family said. He was last seen wearing blue shorts, a black shirt and black shoes.

Remembering Bridgeman

Over 70 people gathered this Saturday in Nelsonville for a candlelit vigil in his memory

“It surprised me so many came out in the cold, and I appreciate every one of them,” Johnson said. “A lot of people loved him. He had a kind soul and we’re all gonna miss him.”

Nelsonville resident Brenda Farley, and good friend of Bridgeman, was also impressed by the turnout.

“The support that we have tonight is mind-blowing,” Farley said.

The vigil, held in the old Fruth parking lot near the Nelsonville Public Square, featured remarks from Bridgeman’s family members as well as religious leaders.

“It’s heartwarming,” said Joe Edwards, a relative of Bridgeman. “A lot of people care about him, a lot of people I don’t even know. I’m glad the community came together and shared their love and support for him.”

The event provided an opportunity for friends and family of Bridgeman to mourn his loss collectively, after months of uncertainty.

“I think people should know that Kyle — he was a forgiving person,” Farley said. “He loved life. He loved his grandmother more than anything. And his dog, he was always posting pictures of his dog: ‘this is my baby.’ The fact that he’s gone is horrible.”

 On the case

Athens County sheriff deputies and investigators from the Athens County Prosecutor's Office searched an area near Bridgeman's home on Wednesday, according to a press release from Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. Deputies discovered human remains at the site and the Athens County Coroner’s Office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called to the scene.

Next of kin were notified that the remains are believed to be Bridgeman's, the release stated. Tests will be conducted to confirm the identification.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office followed up on a rash of tips since Bridgeman's disappearance. The five-month search involved local, county, state and federal law enforcement, including Athens and Nelsonville police; sheriffs in Fairfield, Delaware and Hocking counties; the Athens County Dive Team, York Township Fire Department and Box 5; the Fairfield County prosecutor; sheriffs in Houston County, Alabama, and Orangeburg County, South Carolina; the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Major Crimes Unit, the Adult Parole Authority; the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections; and Wayne National Forest.

Several people have been arrested on charges that appear to be connected to Bridgeman's disappearance and death. While investigating the case, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office received information that Lindsay Woolever (AKA Lindsay Coon) of Nelsonville, a felon, possessed a .9-millimeter firearm that was provided to her by another felon. According to court documents, Woolever, 32, gave the firearm to her legal spouse, Paul (PJ) Coon Jr. — also a felon — on June 3. Bridgeman was last seen with Coon.

Woolever was arrested in Nelsonville on Sept. 16 after the car she was in was stopped. A probable cause search of the vehicle turned up "drug paraphernalia," according to her indictment. When interviewed on Sept. 17, Woolever admitted to law enforcement she regularly shared the firearm with other felons.

Coon was arrested October 5 and held without bond by the Houston County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama. He is currently held in the Fairfield County Jail on charges of violating community control by leaving Ohio without permission.

Johnson said that the discovery was closure for the family.

 “I just wish whoever gave that tip would have given it a long time ago so we could have had closure,” Johnson said. “I thank God he answers prayers — so many people were praying for Kyle to come home.”

Johnson thanked everyone who assisted the family in searching for Bridgeman, including the Athens County Sheriff's Office, the Golden Hearts for The Voiceless (a group that searches for missing people) and the community at large.

“Without all of them keeping Kyle's face out there, this wouldn't have come to closure,” Johnson said. “I think that everybody’s help has brought him home and I appreciate everything everyone has done.”

She added some sort of memorial service will be planned. 

“He’ll be buried beside his mother,” Johnson said.

Dani Kington contributed to this report.

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