116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MONTEZUMA — Family and community members continue to grieve for Xavior Harrelson one year after the young boy went missing, and eight months after his body was found in a soybean field north of town — with still no word from investigators how he died.
Harrelson was reported missing May 27, 2021, just days before his 11th birthday on May 30. He disappeared from the Spruce Village Mobile Home Park in Montezuma, where he lived with his mother.
Xavior’s grandmother, Mary Weber, said the boy and his mother were planning to move at roughly the time of his birthday to Des Moines, where Weber and other family members live.
His family was looking forward to inviting Xavior over and spending more time with him, Weber said. She had given him a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, which was the last time she saw him, and she had her living room redone with a large flat-screen TV, hoping that the boy could come over and play with the Switch at her house.
“He was a sweet, caring child. (At Christmas) he went to give me a hug for giving him his Nintendo Switch and his mom said something to him about being careful. I don’t know what she said, but he turned his head sideways so he had the hood of his coat against my face when he gave me a hug, to try to keep from breathing on me because of COVID,” Weber said. “Before COVID when we had Christmases, he was always a happy kid. He just never asked for anything. He was always very grateful for whatever he got.”
Now, as what would have been Xavior’s 12th birthday approaches, little is publicly known about what happened to him. Montezuma remains decorated with orange ribbons, his favorite color, and residents are eager for any updates about the case, according to Mayor Jacki Bolen.
“I think everyone is very anxious about Xavior receiving some justice. This wasn’t an accident and I think everyone is pretty much on the same page. We would love to have Xavior given some justice,” Bolen said.
Law enforcement has been tight-lipped, however, since Xavior’s body was found. Investigators with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office haven’t released his cause of death or any other information about the case since the body was identified in October 2021.
“Unfortunately there is nothing to update publicly. Law enforcement continues to diligently work on the investigation,” Mitch Mortvedt, the assistant director of the DCI, told The Gazette in an email.
Weber said DCI investigators have shared some information with her and other family members about the status of the investigation, but until something breaks, she can’t share anything publicly.
The FBI is not actively involved in the investigation, but it stands ready to assist if a situation arises where it could provide resources or expertise, according to Mortvedt.
When Xavior disappeared, the community banded together to look for him.
“They night that I found out, we had a council meeting that night and I saw a lot of action outside through the windows because everyone was going to the fire station. … After the meeting was over, I went over and they said they were looking for a little boy that had gone missing. They were scanning the neighborhoods and knocking on doors and that kind of thing,” Mayor Bolen said.
“A pretty large group of people showed up to go help and it was extremely, very cold that night. It was unusually cold. So, that was one of the big concerns, that it was so cold out and no one could find him. They were concerned about him being outside overnight.”
The search continued all summer, and the town grew cautious. Bolen said summers usually mean children out and about regularly without their parents, riding bikes or playing at the park. But last summer, she said, not many children ventured out alone.
Then on Sept. 30, a farmer reported to authorities that remains had been spotted in a soybean field about 3 miles northwest of town. A couple of weeks later, law enforcement officials announced that the body had been positively identified as Xavior.
“It wasn’t at all what we wanted to happen. Nobody wanted that,” Bolen said. “The town was extremely quiet. It was pretty somber.”
Bolen had worked with the Sheriff’s Office to establish a reward fund for the boy’s safe return, which had raised about $30,000. After the body was found, Bolen reached out to anyone who had donated $1,000 or more to offer them the money back. Some took their money back to donate it to other causes, while others told Bolen to keep it.
What was left of the reward fund, about $19,000, was donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Bolen said.
Bolen said since so much time has passed, she has come to believe that Xavior’s disappearance was an isolated incident. She hopes, for the sake of his family and community, more information will eventually come to light about what happened to him.
In the meantime, his family continues to remember the joy that Xavior brought to their lives.
“He was always happy no matter what was going on. He always had a smile on his face. … He just enjoyed being around people,” Weber said.
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