A little boy forgotten
Few cases so odd have so little coverage as the 2001 disappearance of Wesley Dale Morgan. A quick Google search will provide you with a handful of search results that most frustratingly regurgitate the same set of bare bones facts, usually less than a page long
According to the Charlie Project, Welsey Dale Morgan was born 03/14/1999 to teenage mother Ruby Havard, and Dewey Morgan. Dewey and Havard’s relationship is undocumented, but by the time Welsey was two, they were no longer together. His father lived elsewhere in Clinton, Louisiana while Havard 19, and Wesley, 2, lived with her 37-year-old boyfriend, Burnell Hilton Jr. and his 17-year-old son, in a rented home along US Highway 63 near the Bluff Creek community in Clinton Louisiana. There, Wesley vanished.
On May 15, 2001 at 9:45 in the morning, Welsey, dressed in a gray Mickey Mouse t-shirt, blue shorts and sandals, sat on the porch playing with puppies. His mother, went inside for a few minutes to boil eggs for lunch and upon returning, could not find her son or two of the puppies.
A desperate search begins
Police took the disappearance of a child seriously and immediately started searching the thick woods that surrounded the house. The dense woods were not ideal with many dangers including several creeks and gravel pits nearby. Quickly searchers found one puppy on the opposite side of highway 63 leading investigators to think the boy had simply wandered away. They thought he would be found shortly. Bolstering this was Havard who stated that she had not heard any cars drive by during the short time she claimed to be in the house.
As night fell, and with Welsey still not found, fears crept in. Though many searchers returned home to rest, several stayed searching through the dark. Searchers soon focused on a sewage oxidation pond, with the local fire department using a portable pump to empty it. Additionally, the sheriff waded into a deep pond that was on the opposite side of the highway. Searching in jeans, borrowed from a parish inmate, he felt his way along the bottom of the pond, dreading what might be found but hoping there may be answering lying beneath. However, neither of the two searches found the boy or indication that he had been there.
The search expanded to horseback, ATV and by air. A wide range of volunteers immerged, from law enforcement officers, firefighters, Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola prison guard to local volunteers. All of them had the same focus, finding the lost boy..One family volunteered to make biscuits and coffee for the searchers as they covered every inch of the parish (Baker). Everyone in the area that could help, did.
Soon, cadaver sniffing dogs and helicopters with thermal imaging were brought in as people feared the worst. They followed every lead following circling buzzards, and digging up animals graves, They set up roadblocks to solicit clues. Still, not one single trace of Wesley or clues to his whereabouts. Desperation set in with investigators even reaching out to a psychic detective who told them they would find Wesley near Bluff Creek. Unsurprisingly, he was not found there either.
Questions naturally arose. Many could not believe that Welsey could have travelled far enough to remain lost. After all, he had just turned two. Though with many hazards so close to the house, could something tragic befallen the boy in a mere matter of minutes? Others feared a stranger abduction, which though exceedingly rare, happen more often than we’d like to admit. However, if Havard’s story is correct, how would one take Welsey without being heard? And if those two scenarios didn’t happen, what did?
Quickly, the police narrowed their focus on the boy’s mother, Ruby Havard. Early on, the authorities had given both Havard and her boyfriend Burnell Hilton Jr. polygraphs which they failed. Of course, polygraphs can vary wildly in their accuracy, especially depending on who is administering and interpreting the results. However, at least in law enforcement’s eyes, it was suspicious that both failed and they continued the pressure on Havard. Not helping matters, both Havard and Hilton had their share of other run-ins with the law.
During the investigation of Wesley’s disappearance, a different crime was revealed: a shooting. In early 2001, Havard fought with one of Hilton’s exes who later went to the police to inform them that Hilton was involved in the October 1998 shooting of John Lavallias, in which Lavallias was shot in the face. Hilton was subsequently arrested in spring of 2001 for second degree attempted murder. These charges were later reduced to aggravated battery, which Hilton pleaded no contest to. This was not his only run in with the law, as a previous ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, also had a restraining order against him.
Havard and Hilton’s relationship would not survive the stress of a missing child and the scrutiny of the police. Shortly after Wesley disappeared, the two broke up. Havard began dating a man from East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana in June 2001. Investigators, still with Havard on their mind, questioned the new boyfriend and searched his mobile home. This may have been prompted by eyewitnesses who claimed to see a boy matching Welsey’s description in the area. However, if anything of value was found, the police did not say. The new boyfriend was never implicated in the disappearance.
This case never seems to garner the national attention of other missing children’s cases, and as the birthdays came and went with no news of Wesley, the coverage dwindled to a few local newspapers, such as The Advocate, and The Town Talk covering it on anniversaries. Police grumbled to themselves about the lack of family’s involvement, with Havard rarely reaching out to them for an update.
History repeats itself?
With no leads, the case went cold until 2008 when Havard found herself pregnant again. Havard met a couple, who alleged she agreed to sell them the child for $2,070 in cash as well as spending money of $240 per day. The couple, who wanted the child, felt something was wrong, and reported it to the police. According to WAFB9, the police chief, Chief Mitch Giroir, said “They were serious about getting the child, but they came to us because they thought something just wasn’t right.”
State law makes it illegal to give or receive a minor child for money or anything of value. However, the law does provide specific guidelines for expenses that would be legal to have an adaptor pay.
Havard argued that this was just a case of adoption gone wrong. Her attorney, Rhonda Covington, claimed this was selected prosecution, and that she was being targeted for her lifestyle, adding, “If they are going to go after Mrs. Havard for attempting to sell her child, why aren’t they prosecuting the ones who tried to buy it?”
Regardless, Havard was arrested but quickly released on bond.
The police and others were hopeful that this would lead to a break in Wesley’s case. However, no leads arose and by June of 2008, the state Attorney General’s Office announced that charges were dropped, stating that new witnesses had come forward that lead to reasonable doubt in the case and that the expenses could have been for medical costs which is legally allowed.
Mission or madness?
The 2008 acusation of attempting sale of Havard’s child was the last major development in the case. However, though the news and public may have forgotten Wesley, one man has not.
One man has continued to try to draw attention to the case. Richard Sobers is a controversial figure in the Wesley case. On a balmy day in December 2015, Sobers stood outside of the East Feliciana Parish courthouse in Clinton Louisiana handing out flyers and bumper stickers asking “Where’s Wesley?”
Sober is a retired police officer who feels that the local police and Wesley’s family have shut him out and abandoned the case. He thinks that Havard or one of her family members may have answers that would lead to the recovery of Wesley.
Sgt. Kevin Garig who has worked the case since 2008 retorts this claim, saying that the case is still active and that the office still regularly meets with the FBI to discuss the case.
Rhonda Covington who was Havard’s lawyer during the 2008 illegal adoption case, finds Sober and others like him who are not affiliated with the official investigation problematic, as most point to one solution for the case: an illegal adoption. And though there is no firm evidence to point to this conclusion, it remains the number one solution for most internet sleuths. Town locals and alleged family members have also said that’s what they believed happened. Covington argues this is hurtful to the family.
“What does he [Sobers] want them [the family] to do?” she said. “They want the child found, but they don’t spend their Saturdays looking underneath the rocks or in ditches or whatever. They don’t have the skill, the knowledge or the money to conduct their own investigations, so they allow the FBI to do what they’re doing.”
Wesley’s disappearance has been all but forgotten. Perhaps its due to his social economic status. Perhaps the shadow of doubt that fell on the family clouded his story from the start. Or maybe the problem is there is simply no evidence. Every solution is possible. And with every solution possible, where does one even start? Still, Wesley deserves our time. He has now been missing for 20 years. Somebody knows something.
Anyone who has information is encouraged to contact the FBI with tips. You could be the solution to this puzzle. No tip is too small.