Georgia Man Says He Was Fired After Aiding Search for Missing Child

A Georgia man who spent nearly a week hunting for a missing 6-year-old boy earlier this month said he was fired from his job after aiding in the search.

Sam Lyons, 44, of Brunswick, Ga., initially got permission from his bosses at MK Industries to help search for Christopher Michael Barrios Jr. when he disappeared March 8, but was fired when he missed a week of work after the boy was found dead.

"She [Vice President Angela McVeay] told me to go with her blessing and do what I could," Lyons said.

Lyons said his conscience required him to aid in the hunt for the boy, who disappeared from a trailer park Lyons passed each day on his drive to work. He quickly became the volunteer coordinator and was quoted in several newspapers about the search efforts.

On March 15, after five days of searching with the Glynn County Sheriff's Office and two days back on the job, the company's president, Olly McVeay warned him it was time to focus on work, Lyons said. The company paid for two of the days he had taken off for the search.

"[He] told me that what I had done was a very honorable thing and he would like to know that if anybody else ever was missing or one of his children was missing, he would like to know someone like me was out there, but that I needed to get back to work and get my head back in the game," Lyons said.

Searchers found Barrios' body that night. Lyons called in sick the following day.

"Rather than go into work, my stomach was bothering me and I have Crohn's disease and anything that affects stress which I was very stressed, dehydrated, lack of sleep — all that affected me and it brought on an attack of Crohn's," Lyons said.

Angela McVeay, also co-owner of the marine and industrial contracting company, doesn't dispute that Lyons was fired, but said it had to do with a combination of a confidential matter and the employee calling in sick after Barrios was found.

"He was calling in sick the week after the little boy was found for the entire week but he was out in the community, in the news," McVeay told "It was questionable whether or not he was really sick because he was in the news every night."

Lyons felt his role in the search had intertwined his life with that of the Barrios family.

"I was still trying to do as much as I could, coordinating the funeral effort, the visitation with the family," he said. "We had a citywide reception where we fed everyone that came, including the family, and did a lot of effort and work."

But after Lyons showed up to work on Friday to grab his paycheck, he was called and told to turn in his keys and clean out his desk.

"He was out doing other things, yet he just wasn't coming in to his job, and we hired him to do a job, which really hasn't been done for two weeks," Angela McVeay said.

She said her company supported Lyons as much as it could, given the circumstances.

"We were as supportive as we could be, but we have a job here," she said. "If he had come in and asked for the time off, then we may could have looked at things differently. Unfortunately, we were just told he was sick on a daily basis."

Lyons is now unemployed and working for the Justice for Christopher Foundation. He remains optimistic about his future.

"I made a promise to the family and to Christopher's older brother ... I made a promise to that family that I would do everything and would not stop until Christopher was home," Lyons said. "I fulfilled that promise I will go from here and I know something else will come up somewhere down the road that's probably even better and something that I'll enjoy more."