Jan 20, 2008 — After 10 years of waiting for news about her son's disappearance, Deborah Boogher said she does not get her hopes up every time she hears of a possible lead in the case.

Boogher's son, Jason Knapp, has been missing since April 12, 1998. The then-20-year-old Clemson University sophomore's car was found shortly after his disappearance at Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, S.C., which is about 30 miles from the school.

"I've learned to wait and let the police do what they need to do," she said. "Having been through that emotional roller coaster ... I've learned not to get too excited about every little tip that comes."

The latest possible lead in the case comes after the arrest of a man who Georgia authorities said abducted a woman on New Year's Day from a Georgia hiking trail and killed her four days later.

Gary Michael Hilton, 61, is now a person of interest in several other disappearances and homicides that occurred in southern states.

Boogher said she received an e-mail from a Pickens County investigator after Hilton's arrest.

"They were trying to determine the timeline to see if he (Hilton) was in the area when Jason went missing," Boogher said.

Pickens County Assistant Sheriff Tim Morgan said that, within a few days of Hilton's arrest, the Pickens County Sheriff's Office sent Georgia law enforcement authorities a briefing on Knapp's disappearance.


"We'd be remiss in our duties if we didn't check," he said.

One possible connection is that Brevard, N.C. - where, in October, an elderly woman was killed and her husband disappeared - and Pickens County are only about 45 minutes apart, Morgan said.

North Carolina investigators said this week they have a "positive link" between Hilton and the Oct. 21 disappearance and deaths of an elderly couple in Pisgah National Forest. The body of Irene Bryant, 84, was found Nov. 9; authorities presume her husband, John, 79, is dead. His body has not been found.

Knapp's father, John Knapp of Springettsbury Township, said Saturday he had heard of Hilton's arrest from news reports but was not aware Hilton was being considered as a possible suspect in his son's disappearance.

Knapp said he lost touch with police when his son's case was transferred from Clemson Police to the Pickens County Sheriff's Office.

Knapp said that, over the years, he's been harassed by "kooks" who have offered bizarre tips on Jason's disappearance, along with threats of violence.

Still, he yearns for real answers in his son's case.

"December 30 would have been his 30th birthday," he said of his son. "Usually, around the holidays, you wonder what would have happened (if Jason had not disappeared). Most of his friends have families now."

Reach Ted Czech at 771-2033 or tczech@ydr.com.