116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MONTEZUMA — Investigators searching for an Iowa boy who vanished in May days before his 11th birthday said Thursday they have found human remains matching his description in a nearby cornfield.
The remains were discovered by a farmer working in a field a few miles outside Montezuma, where 10-year-old Xavior Harrelson was reported missing May 27 from the trailer park where he lived.
The farmer called the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office to the scene, according to Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt.
State agents, the Iowa medical examiner and the state anthropologist also responded and confirmed that they were human remains, he said.
Mortvedt told The Gazette that Xavior’s family has been notified of the possible development.
“We told them the same thing we’re telling you — that remains were found, that they are adolescent remains and that clothing consistent with what Xavior was last seen wearing was found.”
Mortveldt said authorities were not ready to identify the body as belonging to Xavior. He said confirming the identity of the remains could take as many as six to eight weeks. The state medical examiner also will determine cause and manner of death.
“It's going to be weeks before we have any more information to release while we’re waiting for the state medical examiner to identify the remains, and I’m assuming that will be through DNA,” he said. “You know, we don't want to make assumptions and we are going to continue investigating.”
The body was found 3 miles north of the trailer park, which is on the northwest edge of Montezuma’s city limits.
Mortveldt said the farmland where the body was found was not covered when investigators were conducting a large-scale, boots-on-the-ground search.
“We did not search that area in person,” he said. “We did several searches in the first month or two that Xavior was missing, and most of those searches were within roughly a one-mile radius of the trailer park where he lived. And we felt confident with the time of year it was, and because the vegetation and crops were low, that we had searched the area thoroughly.
The DCI is asking anyone who recalls seeing anything suspicious in the area over the past four months to contact investigators, and anyone in the area with video footage going back as far as four months ago is asked to share that footage.
The DCI has never concluded whether Xavior was taken from the trailer park or if he left the area of his own volition, and Mortvedt confirmed that the circumstances leading up to Xavior’s disappearance still are unknown.
The boy's disappearance from Montezuma, a town of 1,300 people that is 70 miles east of Des Moines, has baffled investigators and saddened residents for months.
It was another blow to a rural area that had been mourning the 2018 abduction and killing of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished about 15 miles away in July 2018 while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn.
In fact, the boy's disappearance came as prosecutors delivered closing arguments in the first-degree murder case against Cristhian Bahena-Rivera, a farmhand who allegedly stabbed Tibbetts to death and dumped her body in a nearby cornfield. Some investigators who had worked the Tibbetts case left the trial to search for the boy, before jurors returned a guilty verdict.
After the trial, Bahena-Rivera's lawyers tried to raise suspicions about whether the two apparent kidnappings were connected, but law enforcement officials have rejected that scenario.
So far, no suspects or persons of interest have been named in Xavior's disappearance.
A 50-year-old man who was a boyfriend of Xavior's mother had come under scrutiny and was jailed on a federal weapons charge, but authorities have not alleged he was involved.
County, state and federal investigators had been examining whether the boy was abducted, ran away or had some kind of accident, and had searched several areas in the region in recent months.
Xavior lived with his mother in the Spruce Village trailer park. He was gone by the morning of May 27, and a friend’s mother called authorities later that day to report the boy missing after speaking with Xavior’s worried mother.
On what would have been his 11th birthday on May 30, hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials searched for him in the nearby Diamond Lake County Park and other areas.
Xavior had completed his fourth-grade year at Montezuma Elementary School on May 21 and was off for summer break. He was known for riding his bike around the trailer park.
“Xavior is a happy kid who gets along well with his peers and wants to please his teachers,” one of his teachers, Marie Boulton, said in June. “He’s always willing to help you out, engage in a conversation, and offers a smile to everyone he sees.”