09/15/04 — Rosewood saddened by missing student

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Rosewood saddened by missing student

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 15, 2004 2:00 PM

There has been a correction to this story:

A series of articles on a man from Goldsboro who is missing in western North Carolina gave an incorrect spelling of the name of a woman whose body was found. The correct spelling is Misty Dawn France.

September 21, 2004

The orginal story follows:

Teachers and students who knew Joel Esteppe at Rosewood High School are hoping for the best and praying for his family.

The sixth day of searching started this morning on Bear Creek Lake in Jackson County. Esteppe, a freshman at Western Carolina University, has not been seen since he and Misty Dawn Frances, 19, of Jacksonville left campus Thursday evening to go hiking at Paradise Falls, a spillway that flows into Bear Creek Lake.

Aaron Joel Esteppe


The pair became missing during a storm caused by the remnants of Hurricane Frances. A search began Friday. On Saturday morning, rescuers found the body of Ms. Frances near the waterfall.

Capt. Steve Lillard of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday the number of searchers has been cut back to prepare for Hurricane Ivan. Between 60 and 125 people have been searching, including divers with underwater cameras, boat crews, helicopters, drag teams and swift-water rescue teams.

"We hope to have some closure before too much longer," he said.

Esteppe came to Rosewood from Alaska in 1999 with his parents, Jeff and Claresa Esteppe, and sister, Erin.

Erin, also a Rosewood High School graduate, died at age 18 in 2002. Joel graduated Rosewood in the spring of 2003. His parents moved this year to Lenoir City, Tenn.

Joel was an innovative student, said Greg Lamm, the school counselor. He made good grades. Teachers described him as being very artistic.

"He came to me his senior year wanting to know how to start a business," said Lamm. "He had talked to several sources before he came to me."

Lamm said Tuesday he heard about the accident a couple of days ago. He has worked with the teachers who knew Esteppe, especially those who had taught him for a couple of years.

He was very smart, said Linda Franks, Esteppe's science teacher at Rosewood. She said he was his own person, very independent. He didn't have to dress like everybody else. She liked that about him.

"He was very respectful, well-behaved," she said.

"You pray for the family," she added. "You feel sad."