By Beth Lawrence
The case of Aaron Fortner, the Savannah man who left home Feb. 22 and has not been seen since, could get some national attention thanks to the efforts of a missing persons advocate.
Alicia Kozak created a TikTok video and a YouTube mini-documentary to spread the word about Aaron Cody Fortner’s disappearance. The TikTok video already has 125,000 views and the mini-doc, posted May 9, is up to 811 views.
Kozak herself was kidnapped and has since used her ordeal as a platform to help others. In January 2002, 13-year-old Kozak was abducted by someone she met online. A 38-year-old man snatched Kozak from the street outside her home in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania taking her to his home in Virginia where he chained and assaulted her.
In the days before social media, the closest law enforcement could come to blasting the details of her disappearance was a widely disseminated missing poster.
“I was rescued because of my missing poster,” Kozak said. “So, I know the importance and the power that having the story out there, that having the picture out there, also the power of the media and the public working together to help bring missing people home.
“Please don’t hesitate to speak up. No tip is too small. You really do have the power to make a difference. Somebody somewhere knows something about Aaron’s location, and we need that person to speak up.”
These videos are a relatively new venture for Kozak who holds speaking engagements but began creating videos during the pandemic in hopes of locating missing persons.
“This has been a goal of mine for quite a while to create these videos and to reach out to these families to help raise awareness to tell their story,” Kozak said.
Kozak, who regularly searches missing person’s reports, found Fortner’s case and reached out to Kourtney Biddix, Fortner’s younger sister, offering her help.
The documentary was recorded on April 23, three months after Fortner vanished and the same day Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was conducting a second search of the area where Fortner was last seen.
The 12-minute video recounts Fortner’s early life, his battle with alcoholism and the peculiar events leading up to his Feb. 22 disappearance.
All their lives Kourtney Biddix and her older brother looked out for each other.
Now that Fortner might not be able to help himself Biddix is trying especially hard to look out for him, so she agreed to the interview hoping it might yield information about her brother’s disappearance.
“He would always be a brother and make fun of me and say funny things, (but) he would help anybody if they needed it,” Biddix said. “We met at the camper where Aaron was living, and they did the interview there. I hope that it’ll boost (Aaron’s story) out more so that people can see it. It’s good to have fresh eyes on something instead of the family looking at it through our emotional state.”
The last person to see Fortner was his mother, Kristina Biddix. She took him to a nearby Dollar General to buy groceries on Feb. 21. When she left Fortner, he seemed fine.
Fortner began calling his grandparents around midnight on Feb. 22 insisting someone was coming for him and that the camper he lived in on their property needed to be moved.
He had inherited the camper from another grandparent a few months earlier and had to move it to Fox Trace.
His grandparents assured him the camper was where it needed to be, but Fortner insisted it needed moving and someone was going to take his things. He also claimed to see a man with a dog. Shortly after that, the calls ceased. The Biddixes reported Fortner missing around midday Feb. 22.
“It’s such a truly mysterious case,” Kozak said. “He seemingly did just vanish. It seems like there’s really no clues or no information left behind.”
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies conducted a ground search from Feb. 22 until March 2 before moving the investigation to a different phase.
“We haven’t gotten any leads or any more information from the video so far,” Kourtney Biddix said. “I want the public to contact us or the sheriff’s department, somebody with any information that they have from that day or that night when we lost contact with him and to share this video so more people are able to watch it.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re anonymous about it, we just want information ... even if it’s just a small thing that they remember that they don’t think is very important, to us it’s important,” Biddix said.
Anyone with information about Fortner’s disappearance is asked to call the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 586-4355 or dispatch at 586-1911.