The remains of a Kilgore man – missing for most of the month of October – were found Oct. 26, and the body has been sent to a forensics lab to help investigators determine the cause of Larry Lynn Wheeler’s death.
Per standard procedure in this kind of incident, Kilgore PD is treating the case as a criminal investigation until evidence indicates otherwise.
The 63-year-old was reported missing Oct. 18, but he was actually last seen the afternoon of Oct. 2.
“He’s got family here local that he lived with. It was not uncommon for him to be gone a few days at a time,” KPD Assistant Chief Johnathan Gage reported. “After those few days passed, they gave it another few days. Then they gave it a few more days. Then, they realized, he’d been gone too long.”
Eight days after he was reported missing, Wheeler’s body was discovered in the southern, Rusk County portion of Kilgore Oct. 26, a Saturday afternoon.
Most recently, the man resided on the opposite side of town, Gage said.
“He was found by two people walking in a wooded area off of the 400 block of Emmons Street,” he noted.
The men were just walking and happened upon the remains, Gage added; neither has any link to Wheeler. At their 911 call, officers were dispatched to the scene at 1:17 p.m.
“He had been deceased for quite a while,” Gage said. There was no immediate indication why Wheeler was in that wooded area near a lease-road. “The body was pretty badly decomposed. He had been exposed to the environment and the elements for quite a while.
“He was identified by personal identification found on his person and also by some physical features that were obvious.”
There was no apparent cause of death, Gage said, especially considering the state of the body. Wheeler’s remains were sent to Southwestern Forensics in Dallas for further examination.
“We are also having anthropologists check on the remains to see if there’s any further detail that can be provided from their end,” he reported. “There were other factors that made any on-site criminal investigations or forensics very difficult.”
Considering the nature of the case, KPD treated the case as an ‘unknown death.’
“Basically we would follow the same protocols and procedures that we would if we showed up on a known homicide scene,” Gage confirmed. Otherwise, “Once you get into it then find out something else may have happened, it’s too late to go back and do it from the criminal investigative side at that point. Once you start the process, it better be the right process or you’ve lost valuable evidence.
“Sometimes it will take a week or two to get the actual scientific report back. From there it’s going to the anthropologists so they can take a look at his bones and tell us anything of interest.”