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Insurance company denies missing Nashville surgeon is dead

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Dr. William Coltharp Dr. William Coltharp
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

There's a new twist in the case of a missing Nashville heart surgeon whose kayak was found nearly two years ago floating on Center Hill Lake.

Dr. William Coltharp was last seen Oct. 2, 2011, when the DeKalb County sheriff said reliable witnesses saw a man matching Coltharp's description load a cinder block into the kayak before paddling onto the lake.

Authorities later recovered Coltharp's kayak with a life jacket and laptop computer inside, along with an empty gun case located under some nearby rocks, but his body never surfaced and search crews could never locate him.

Now, the doctor's life insurance company is denying that he's dead.

Coltharp's wife, Nicole, filed a court motion to declare her husband dead, in order to receive his life insurance.

But court records obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show the insurance company stating, "Mass Mutual denies that William is deceased."

"In 37 years of practice, I've never heard of this situation before," said attorney Randall Kinnard.

Kinnard is not involved in the dispute over William Coltharp's life insurance, but he is suing Coltharp's conservator and medical associates in a malpractice case.

They, too, are in a difficult situation.

All anyone knows is that Dr. Coltharp hasn't been seen since that day in October.

"He was declared missing on Oct. 3, and that is the best that anybody knows," Kinnard said.

In asking for the life insurance money, Nicole Coltharp's attorney wrote that there is no evidence that he is alive - that his passport remains in the family safe and no monies are missing from Dr. Coltharp's account.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation examined the laptop found in the lake and has since sent it back to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office.

Officials couldn't comment on what was found on the computer, saying this is still a missing person's case.

Neither Nicole Coltharp's attorney, nor the attorney representing Mass Mutual would comment for this story.

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