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ATLANTA -- Can you believe it? Georgia's "Bigfoot" was just a big hoax.
The body of a supposed ape-man found in the North Georgia mountains in June was nothing but an empty rubber monkey suit embedded in ice, according to California Bigfoot enthusiasts who finally got a chance to examine it last weekend.
The two Atlanta men who stood up at a news conference in California last week and tried to convince the world they had found Bigfoot now apparently can't be located --- just like the real Bigfoot.
Calls to Matthew Whitton, a Clayton County police officer --- make that former police officer --- and his car salesman buddy Rick Dyer weren't returned Tuesday.
The answering machine on a "tip line" connected to the pair's Web site, which still advertises $499 Bigfoot "expeditions," says they're still out searching for Sasquatch --- as well as leprechauns, dinosaurs, unicorns, Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis.
Searching for Bigfoot Inc., the California outfit that paid an undisclosed sum to Whitton and Dyer for rights to their story and their find, says the pair checked out of the hotel where they had been put up over the weekend.
According to a news release on Searching for Bigfoot's Web site, the whole scam unraveled when a block of ice containing the "body" melted over the weekend. Whitton and Dyer later confessed that it was just a costume, according to the release.
Why the two Georgians contrived the cross-country con isn't clear.
What is certain is that Whitton, 28, on medical leave after being shot in the wrist by a robbery suspect this year, won't be going back to work at the Clayton County Police Department.
As soon as he heard Whitton's Bigfoot was a big fake, "I terminated him," Police Chief Jeffrey Turner said Tuesday.
"He's disgraced himself, he's an embarrassment to the Clayton County Police Department, his credibility and integrity as an officer is gone, and I have no use for him," Turner said. "His behavior is unbecoming of that of a police officer.
"This turn of events from hero to someone who defrauds a nation is just baffling. I don't know how he got from one point to the other," Turner said.
The chief said he wants to send Whitton his termination paperwork and get his uniforms back. However, he said, "We haven't been able to get in touch with him."
Staff writer Kathy Jefcoats contributed to this article.