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Authorities searching for a missing man in Lincoln County

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | December 5, 2023 8:42 AM

The search continues for a missing Lincoln County man.

Seventy-two-year-old Johnnie Lee Hantz was reported missing Nov. 29. He was last seen leaving Libby on Tuesday, Nov. 28, driving northbound on Montana 37 in a camo-colored CAN-AM side-by-side with Montana license plate AAMX0486.

Hantz was traveling with his mastiff, Chester. He was last seen wearing a heavy black coat. Hantz may be experiencing confusion and is missing part of a thumb on an unspecified hand.

Members of David Thompson Search and Rescue and deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office have been searching areas known to be frequented by Hantz but as of Monday, Dec. 4, no signs of Hantz or Chester have been located. 

Air resources have been contacted but have been unable to assist because of the weather.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Hantz. Anyone with information regarding Hantz’ possible location is asked to contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at 406-293-4112.

Hantz has gone missing before in the area.

According to a previous story in The Western News, he went missing in March 2021, 

Following a day of search and rescue operations on March 24, 2021, authorities found Hantz in safe condition in the Barron Creek drainage late in the afternoon.

In the 2021 search, Sheriff Darren Short said local law enforcement called in a civil air patrol plane from Billings to comb the area. Volunteers with David Thompson Search and Rescue took part in the effort as well.

At the time, Rachel Hantz, John Hantz’s niece, said her uncle was preparing to trek into the woods with Chester when he was last spotted. 

John Hantz has gotten stuck before while out on trips, according to his niece. In the 2021 incident, Philip Hantz said responders told him it appeared his brother’s side-by-side had gotten stuck. 

John Hantz then stayed in or near the rig until the search and rescue team arrived. Philip Hantz said a deputy told him his brother did not require hospitalization.