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Family still searching for Samantha Burns

KENOVA, W.Va. -- Despite another apparent disappointment after a decade of looking and coming away empty-handed, Samantha Burns' relatives said Friday they will never stop searching for her body.

"We just want to bring her home," said Roger Adkins, Burns' uncle. "She's not here with us, and all that we have is a headstone."

Burns was 19 when she was reported missing on Nov. 11, 2002. A student at Marshall Community and Technical College, she was driving home to visit family in West Hamlin but never arrived. Her burned-out Chevrolet Cavalier was found a week later on Haneys Branch Road, near the Cabell-Wayne county line.

Two men, Branden Leon Basham and Chadrick Evan Fulks, admitted in 2005 that they kidnapped and killed Burns as part of a crime spree after escaping from a Kentucky jail. They already faced the death penalty for killing a woman in South Carolina.

Police never found Burns' body and have investigated several leads over the years to no avail.

The latest search came this week after FBI agents received a tip that Burns' body could be found along a rural road in Kenova. Searchers looked along Buffalo Creek Road near Rocky Top's Pizza in Kenova this week.

Adkins said his family has been looking along the road with FBI agents and West Virginia State Police troopers from morning until night since Monday.

He's been involved in about five other searches for his niece's remains since she went missing.

"You just get anxiety every time," Adkins said. "You think, 'Here we go again.'"

About a dozen volunteers from the group Community United Effort joined Friday's search. Robby Hughes, another of Burns' uncles, said the CUE group has been helping his family search for years.

Finding Burns' remains is just as important to them as it is to his family, Hughes said.

"None of us will give up," he said.

Search volunteers came from Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio to help local authorities. They brought in cadaver dogs to smell around a nearby wooded area and along the railroad tracks.

Adkins said it hurts not knowing where his niece's remains are after all these years. He thinks about her frequently.

"She was a good, sweet little girl," Adkins said. "She was just trying to grow up, but she never got the chance."

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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