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LACEY’S SPRING, Ala. (WHNT) – Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin confirms that the body  found in a dry creek bed near Dry Creek Cove Road belongs to 74-year-old Franklin Payne, missing since early December.

Franklin said that an autopsy will need to be performed on the body, but she feels confident that the body is Payne’s.

Family members say not knowing here Payne had gone was “heartbreaking.” Three days after Payne was last seen his two small dogs came back to the home. His body was found in an area where search crews patrolled from the air with a helicopter and on the ground with dogs but were not able to locate the missing man. Sheriff Franklin says two hikers discovered the body Wednesday afternoon and called authorities to the scene.

Sheriff investigators used horses and ATVs to get to the exact location where the body was found. She said the body was in a dry creek bed.

Franklin Payne, 74, went missing from his home on Pinehill Circle in Lacey’s Spring 22 days ago. Payne, who was diagnosed with dementia, lived close to family members who were caring for him.

The Sheriff’s Office received some tips and possible sightings, but none led them to finding Payne.

Several agencies helped in the initial search in Lacey’s Spring, including the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Lacey’s Spring Volunteer Fire Department and the Morgan County Rescue Squad.