“John told the salesman at a Home Depot in Durham that the chain was for a porch swing, the concrete block for a step to the utility building in his back yard. The backpack and sleeping bag he purchased without explanation at an R.E.I. in Raleigh, the inflatable plastic raft, foot pump, and two-piece paddle at Walmart. He made up the name Jimmy Ray Gallup and, at a Goodwill in Mebane, picked out a hoodie, a navy T-shirt, work pants, and boots that Jimmy Ray Gallup would wear. He bought the toolbox and three padlocks from an Ace Hardware in Pittsboro. He paid cash for everything and threw the receipts away in trash cans outside the stores. He bought nothing in Chapel Hill….”
Though born in San Antonio, Texas, Earley grew up in Rutherfordton, studied English at Warren Wilson College and worked news at the Thermal Belt News Journal in Columbus and the Daily Courier in Forest City.