ASHVILLE, Ala. — JSU football coach John Grass released the following statement on the death of his 78-year-old mother, Virginia Grass:
"My family appreciates your love and support for us during this time. Momma was a lady who loved her family, the community, church, and served 35 yrs as a bus driver. She was a special woman with a big (heart). My mom is at home now where she wanted to be."
The body of 78-year-old Virginia Grass has been found near Ashville, authorities tell ABC 33/40.
Grass, who is the mother of Jacksonville State football coach John Grass, went missing from her home sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. More than 100 people gathered to help search for Grass. The search resumed at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and she was found a couple hours later near her home on Bucks Valley Road.
John Grass' brother-in-law shared the heartbreaking news on social media:
"My sister, Jada Arnold Grass wanted us to let everyone know that the search is over and we did not get the outcome we had prayed for. Jada, John and the entire Grass family thank all of the searchers who worked tirelessly to help find their beloved mother and grandmother. Please pray for God to strengthen and comfort them during this difficult time."
According to family members, Virginia Grass had been battling Alzheimer's for several years.
Ryan Hammock was in the search crew that approached the pond early Tuesday morning.
"I went down to the edge of the pond and that's where I noticed there were leaves that were under the water that had not been messed with and all of a sudden in the middle, there was a compacted area," said Hammock.
They called in reinforcements and discovered it was Grass.
"Thinking hey if this is her, finally there's closure for the family," Hammock recalled what went through his mind. "But on the other end, I was hoping there was going to be a better outcome for everybody involved."
Assistant St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray says she did not have any sort of tracking bracelet.
He does not suspect foul play.
Carlton Weathers is Coach John Grass' pastor. He was at the family house helping them cope.
"She served her community," Weathers remembered Virginia Grass. "She drove a school bus. She raised a great family. They say you can know somebody through their children and if that's the case, and I believe it is, she was a wonderful, wonderful pillar of this community."
It's a community where hundreds volunteered to search and multiple law enforcement agencies lent a hand.
"That allowed us to cover a lot of ground very quickly," said Murray. "From beginning to end, you're looking at a day and a half and we were able to cover a perimeter of up to five miles which is a tremendous undertaking."
Murray says the county does have project lifesaver program. If a person suffers from dementia, their family can request a tracking bracelet from the sheriff's office.