LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a 20-year-old man who's been missing since an alternative lifestyles gathering over the July 4 holiday are desperate to find C.J. Elliott.
"There are no words to express what my husband and I are going through," said Alice Elliott. "We're just going crazy; we are scared to death.
"I want my son back," she said. "I want him home. He's my world."
Authorities are also concerned about Elliott, who was last seen planning to attend a Rainbow Family gathering in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega from July 1-7. Officials said Elliott was last seen on his way into the forest on July 5, when police checked his ID.
The Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office has been trying to ping his phone during the search, but the device has been off since July 4. No one has used his bank cards, either.
"I absolutely cannot imagine C.J. staying up there," said Alice Elliott. "He's 20; he can make his own choices, but I can't imagine that he would do this and not call me."
This is not the first bit of bad news connected to this year's Rainbow Family Gathering. Authorities said a woman who met a man at the gathering was killed by him in Kentucky.
"Every minute that goes by I am more concerned," said Lumpkin Sheriff Stacy Jarrard. "His family says he checks in every day, so this is a major concern."
But Rainbow Family member Clem Venson doesn't believe there's any cause for concern.
"We see this year after year," said Venson, who has been to 10 national Rainbow Family gatherings, "where grown young adults leave home and find Rainbow because they're out there trying to find themselves and this is what they find. They meet a bunch of kids their age who are going somewhere they've never been, and they go.
"The vast majority of people leave this gathering with a group of people and are out there in the country, doing fine, and he's probably in good health."
But Venson understands why Elliott's parents are worried.
"If he's missing and his parents are concerned, I want him to call home. I want them to be at rest as much as his parents want to be at rest about this."
According to the organization's website, the Rainbow Family describes itself as "the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. We have no leaders, and no organization."
The group held a small march on Sunday to call for the release of Rainbow Family members who are being detained by law enforcement. A permit was issued for the gathering.
"I would just beg C.J. to call me," said his mother. "Please, just let me know that he's OK. I love him more than life itself. I would give my life for CJ. I would do anything for him."