Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) – A local private investigator who was hired by the family of Tao Gao who went missing last Friday in Irmo, was the person who located the missing man’s body in a pond near his home Sunday. According to the Irmo Police Department’s report, Henry Dukes, owner of Dukes’ Investigations and Consulting and a well-known retired law enforcement officer who is now working as a private investigator, found the missing man in hours after the family hired him to work the case.
In the police report, it read that Irmo officers responded to the pond after Dukes saw the body of someone floating in the water and dialed 911. Once officers arrived and Dukes pointed out where the body was, the police noted distinctive marks that helped them positively identify the man as Tao Gao, the missing man. The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s Dive team was called in to recover the his body.
In an interview Wednesday, Dukes said that after the family hired him, he conducted interviews with the everyone and especially the last people who had seen Gao alive. His bicycle and other forms of transportation were still home which led Dukes to believe that he had walked to wherever he was. During one of the interviews, Dukes discovered that Gao enjoyed meditating at a pond near his home. Once Dukes approached that pond, he saw personal belongings along the bank that were quickly identified as some of the missing man’s personal effects. That’s when Dukes looked into the water and discovered the man floating in the pond.
Since the discover of Tao, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher has had an autopsy performed and today released its findings. That report said that Tao Gao’s death was due to drowning. No foul play is suspected.
Dukes said that he was just glad that he could bring some peace and closure to the family. He said that in his experience, the only thing he’s seen worse than a person losing someone they love, is not knowing what’s happened to a loved one who has simply disappeared. “Once their loved one is found, most can begin the healing process. When someone you love is missing and there’s that unknown aspect, as hard as most try, they simple can’t put that feeling of not knowing behind them.”