Body of Valley woman found
LaGRANGE — The body of 24-year-old Maranda Whitten was found Monday morning at R. Shaefer Heard Campground. Her death appears to be a suicide by drowning, according to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Sheriff James Woodruff, Whitten was found with an extension cord around her ankles. The cord was attached to a large rock, Woodruff said.
“Our hearts certainly go out to the family,” Woodruff said.
Whitten went kayaking Friday afternoon around 2 p.m. and was reported missing after her kayak was recovered by the Department of Natural Resources near the West Point Dam. Whitten had been camping with family, but stayed after family members left the campground.
The search for Whitten continued throughout the weekend, ending Monday morning when campers reported seeing a body floating in the water, Woodruff said.
The West Point police and fire departments, the Opelika Fire Department and Troup County Fire Department also assisted in the search. There were also around 60 volunteers that gave up parts of their weekend looking for Whitten.
“It is amazing to me that every time we have a major event, the number of volunteers that show up to help and want to make a difference,” Woodruff said. “We had people from the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office offering to come, but we had so many volunteers that we said ‘hold up, we might be able to use you another day.’
Woodruff said many West Point businesses also brought searchers water, sunscreen and bug spray throughout the weekend.
“I just can’t say enough about how blessed we are in to live in Troup County and to have the type of people and type businesses that we have here,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff said the search was challenging because the kayak was found floating in the water after several severe storms impacted the area. Whitten didn’t take a cell phone with her.
“We had a huge presence of agencies out here and citizens. We probably had 50 citizens show up and get out here and walk in the woods and search the woods,” Woodruff said. “We had boats on the water looking and looking, and we couldn’t find anything.”
Whitten’s body will be taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy.
“These tragedies seem to strike all the time,” Woodruff said. “We just can’t take life for granted.”