Missing man's body discovered
HUNTINGTON -- Luke Huffman watched with a sense of tragic disbelief Monday afternoon as firefighters hoisted the body of his friend, Randy Paul Martin II, from a bridge beam over the Ohio River.
A towboat operator noticed Martin's body about 11:27 a.m. Monday as his vessel approached the 17th Street West bridge in Huntington. Police then found a gun with the body, used photographs to confirm its identity and soon determined the fatal gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
Huffman, who learned of his friend's disappearance Wednesday, received word of the discovery as he and others searched an area softball field. They hurried to the city's floodwall and watched, trying to figure out why a "standup dude" and computer technician might have taken his own life.
"It was totally out of character," he said. "I don't know how it goes from here to there, but damn that's crazy."
The 31-year-old had been missing since Dec. 10, his vehicle found Friday in the parking lot of a nearby Washington Avenue restaurant.
Huntington Police Lt. John Williams said a video shows Martin exiting the vehicle alone Dec. 10 at the restaurant and walking away by himself out of the camera's view. Investigators believe he died a short time later, the lieutenant said, noting his body showed signs of exposure.
Williams, during an afternoon press conference, described Martin's family as distraught.
"It's a tragic event, compounded by the season that it is," he said referencing Christmas. "Sometimes we don't have answers as to why people do these things. There's a few things going on in (Martin's) life, which is private for them. It leaves the survivors left to surmise what may have happened."
It is believed Martin used a ladder in the middle of the truss bridge to access the beam, which ran parallel with the southbound lane, next to and just beneath the road's surface, Williams said. He estimated the beam's width at 20 inches.
"Just the way he was resting on it, it just happened everything was there," he said.
Lee Stambaugh, 34, of Ashland, didn't know the missing man, but sought Martin's friends through Facebook hoping others would do the same if his family needed similar help. He joined their search hours before word reached Huffman and others at the nearby softball field.
"They were pretty tore up," he said. "It was pretty sad."
Martin is survived by his wife, Andrea Lynn Martin. County records indicate the couple married in 2005. Huffman lived just blocks away from their home in Westmoreland. He said they have no children.
"He was really, really nice," Huffman said. "He meant well all of the time."
Williams said no autopsy would be performed, consistent with the state's policy regarding deaths believed to be self-inflicted.
Martin's body was retrieved just after 2 p.m. Monday with assistance from the Huntington Fire Department and West Virginia Division of Highways. A firefighter, himself harnessed, climbed down a ladder and attached a harness to Martin's body. Colleagues then hoisted it to the road's surface.
The incident forced traffic delays for motorists utilizing the 17th Street West bridge. It was closed in both directions early on, but soon opened to alternate one lane of traffic. All lanes opened again shortly before 3 p.m.
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