The body of an Emory University graduate student reported missing Tuesday night was found Wednesday morning on the sculpted side of Stone Mountain.
Antony Edge plunged some 600 feet to his death after crossing a protective fence on the mountaintop, said Chuck Kelley, the park's chief of police and fire.
Edge's body was found at 8:20 a.m., less than an hour after officers began their search at daybreak.
Edge, 35, had hiked to the top of the mountain on Tuesday to study. Late that night, his wife reported him missing, but Kelley wouldn't allow his officers to search in the dark because of the treacherous terrain. Wednesday morning the chief informed the family that Edge's body was found about 150 yards west of the famous carving of Civil War figures.
Investigators do not suspect foul play and believe Edge's death was an accident.
"We found nothing to indicate that he was trying to harm himself," Kelley told the AJC. "His wife had told us early on that he was a very adventurous soul and that he always crossed fences that he knew he wasn't supposed to."
Edge's book bag was found on the mountaintop near the 4-foot-tall fence around the perimeter, Kelley said.
"The mountain is very deceiving and that's why we have that fence," he said. "You can start over and it doesn't look that steep, but when you stop and turn around, the mountain is very steep."
Edge entered the park just after 4 p.m. Tuesday and drove to the Confederate Hall parking lot, according to Kelley.
Kelley said Edge texted his wife at 4:45 p.m., telling her that he was on top of the mountain and had taken a book bag and was going to study. Edge also told his wife in a text message that he wished she were on the mountain with him, the chief said.
Edge's wife, Melissa, said that in the text, her husband told her that "he had come to Stone Mountain to get away and to study for his executive MBA class."
"He loves nature, and it was a beautiful day, so I didn't think anything of it," Melissa Edge said.
She said she got concerned around 7 p.m. when she tried to get in touch with her husband, but couldn't despite calling his cell phone every five to 10 minutes.
About 10 p.m., Melissa Edge came to the park and reported that her husband had not returned home, Kelley said.
Antony Edge's car was found in the Confederate Hall parking lot. Officers from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation searched it and found nothing to indicate a suicide or foul play, Kelley said.
The area where Edge's body was found is rough terrain, Kelley said, with steep sections and foliage.
"We couldn't search that last night," he said. "Because of how steep and treacherous that area is, I won't send officers in to search until daylight, and that's what we did. At first daylight this morning, at 7:30, we started checking that area."
Police believe Edge died at 6 p.m. because that's when his watch stopped, Kelley said. He said he waited about two hours to tell the missing man's family that his body had been found because he "wanted to take care of Tony. We wanted to do a thorough investigation at the scene and treat him with respect and get him out of the area and to the medical examiner."
Melissa Edge told the AJC that her husband, a banker who just started classes at Emory in January, grew up in Atlanta and had climbed Stone Mountain "many times as a child with his father."
"I'm not leaving this mountain until I find my husband," she said just before daybreak Wednesday. "I feel like I'm in a very, very bad dream and I hope to wake up any minute."
Kim Frantz, Edge's sister, described her brother as a "fun-loving man" who had recently married and bought a house.
"We grew up hiking this mountain, so he's familiar with it," she said.
Kelley said Edge's wife told him that Edge had experience as a rock climber.
Kelley said visitors to the mountain routinely ignore the warnings and climb the fence at the edge.
"We catch them daily over the fence, and sadly, this accident proves how dangerous that is to cross that fence," he said.
People fall to their death about once every five years, estimated Kelley, who said he has been Stone Mountain Park Public Safety Chief for 37 years.
Edge fell from a "very steep" area on the wrong side of the fence, Kelley said. The further you go, the steeper it gets, he explained.
"All you have to do is slip a little bit," he said, "and then you can't stop."
-- Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.