A police marine unit was searching a lake Tuesday in an area where a Marine Corps veteran went missing earlier this month, state police said.
Troopers with the state police unit were at three lakes at Clementon Park and a wooded area of Clementon off White Horse Avenue during the ongoing search for Lance James, 29, who disappeared after leaving Hide-A-Way Tavern on Dec. 2.
The state police is assisting Clementon police and the Camden County prosecutor's office. A Clementon police official declined to comment on the investigation, saying only that James is a missing persons case. The county prosecutor's office issued a statement Dec. 10 that said James was last seen at his residence.
But that's not what his family says.
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His sister, Jessica Hassan, told NBC10.com that on the night of his disappearance, James walked a mile from his home to the Hide-A-Way Tavern on White Horse Avenue.
At first, the family believed he never made it to the bar.
But Hassan said they have since found out that James made it to the bar and during a conversation inside the bar was manhandled by at least two local men who she said frequent Hide-A-Way. Hassan claims one of men held her brother down while another kicked him in the head.
They then took James outside, she said.
That's where Hassan claims her brother actually talked to Clementon police officers. She added that there is surveillance video showing James leaving the bar toward nearby Clementon Park, where Bottom Lake and Silver Lake are. Those, along with Clementon Lake, are the lakes being searched, she said.
James hasn't been seen since.
James spent five years as an active duty Marine, completing one-year tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Field Radio Technician. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and battles severe depression, his sister said.
"He has a big heart but he wears it on his sleeve. He will make you laugh and he is by far one of the most loyal people you will meet. When you befriend him you have a friend for life," Hassan said of James adding that he's a father to a 5-year-old girl.
James, who doesn't have a car, frequents Cherry Hill where he donates blood, Hassan said. He stands 5-feet-8-inches tall with a lean build and has brown hair as well as a reddish brown beard.