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Missing Lincoln Co. man found dead in Huson Peak area

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | December 13, 2023 12:30 PM

The search has ended for a missing Lincoln County man.

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, seventy-two-year-old Johnnie Lee Hantz, who was reported missing on Nov. 29, was found dead by a citizen in the Huson Peak area off Quartz Creek Road.

According to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office, county Dispatch received a 911 call at 10:01 p.m. Tuesday. The caller reported finding Hantz’s CanAm side by side and that the man was deceased.

The caller also reported that the man’s dog, Chester, was alive and took him to the sheriff’s office. Deputies responded to the scene and confirmed Hantz was dead. They secured the scene for further investigation.

The sheriff’s office notified the family and the investigation is ongoing.

Hantz was last seen leaving Libby on Tuesday, Nov. 28, driving northbound on Highway 37 in a camo-colored CAN-AM, traveling with his Mastiff dog, Chester. 

Members of David Thompson Search and Rescue and deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office searched areas known to be frequented by Hantz but reported no signs of him or the dog as of Monday, Dec. 4. 

Air resources have been contacted but have been unable to assist at this time due to weather.

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. Chester, Hantz’s bull mastiff, also is in good condition, according to a social media post from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

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.