Featuring The Doe Network
By Afsha Bawany
Las Vegas Sun
For almost two decades, Arthur Wuestwald Sr. had no idea where his eldest son was. On Sept. 3 he learned that his son's skeletal remains had been found in a remote area of northeast Utah, thanks to the work of volunteer cybersleuths.
Someone had killed Arthur Wuestwald Jr. and left him in the mountains near Randolph, Utah, on a path that is rarely traveled, authorities told his father, a 57-year-old security company employee who has lived in Las Vegas since June 2002.
His son's body was found Aug. 22.
Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey said the medical examiner determined that the younger Wuestwald was killed when he was 18-20 years old.
Wuestwald Sr. said his son had always been "a little wild" and had previous drug problems.
"We think it was a drug deal or gang-related," Wuestwald Sr. said at his eastern Las Vegas apartment Wednesday.
A 10-year-old riding horseback and rounding up cattle discovered the body. The body's hands were bound by electrical tape, the Rich County sheriff told Wuestwald.
Wuestwald hadn't seen him since 1984, when his son was a distant, stubborn 17-year-old. That year the boy left the family home in White River, S.D.
He said he was leaving to attend cooking school with the Job Corps in Utah, but the family never heard from him again.
After six months the family tried to find him, using his Social Security number to search through records, but they couldn't track him down.
"I wasn't sure if he was missing or took off," he said.
In South Dakota relatives hoped the teen had gotten married and gone off to raise his own family somewhere, Wuestwald said.
After so many years, though, Wuestwald said he began to suspect that the next time he would hear about his son it would be word of his death. He just never figured it would be this kind of news.
"It's hard to sleep at nights ... thinking what it was like," Wuestwald said.
When he went to Randolph, the day after learning that Arthur had been found, the grieving father said he "didn't even want to look at the body."
"The funny thing is he hated the outdoors," Wuestwald said.
Wuestwald's family in White River was expected to hold a funeral service today.
The body had been found with a Job Corps identification card nearby.
The Rich County sheriff had sent out a bulletin about the discovery to law enforcement agencies around the nation, but that wasn't the reason the victim's relatives were found.
Bobby Lingoes, a volunteer for a group called the Doe Network and a dispatcher for the Quincy, Mass., police department, received a report that an unidentified body had been found in Randolph. The Job Corps ID card included a birthdate.
"I just happen to be in a position where I read national broadcasts that come over every day," Lingoes said. "I saw that one and thought it was solvable with the databases I had."
Using a tracking website Lingoes traced the name, but the birthdate did not match the age of an Arthur Wuestwald in Las Vegas. Lingoes notified the Rich County sheriff, who determined that the man in Southern Nevada was the father of the victim.
"Actually it was pretty simple, to tell the truth. It's a very unusual name," he said.
The nonprofit volunteer network began in 1998 and now has become a way for amateur detectives to help locate missing persons in North America, Europe and Australia. It was first started as a site for people to discuss missing persons. Now, it has 277 volunteers who try to solve "cold cases" in their spare time.
A cold case is a missing person or homicide investigation that has been open for along time but has gone "cold" because authorities have no more leads to follow, Dana Gonzalez, one of the founding members, said.
Volunteers research possible new leads on cases, read through local newspapers for clues and discuss them through a chat group on yahoo.com. Law enforcement officials also have used the site to post new cases or cases that have reached a standstill. Doe Network volunteers say more agencies should use the site.
"We have the tenacity to research things and have detectives and private investigators who are volunteering their time," Gonzalez said.
"I think that there's so much information out there to be found. All the answers are out there. The cases can be solved with the advancements in DNA and forensics if the cases are brought back to the public eye."
"If law enforcement would give it a chance and utilize it, more cases can be submitted, and the more cases people will see and get solved," he said.
Lingoes joined the Doe Network two years ago and has helped tie up loose ends on six of the eight cases that Doe Network volunteers have solved, including the Wuestwald case.
Lingoes and Gonzalez said they hope the Wuestwald case will be another success that helps legitimize their group, and that they can help bring closure to more people in Nevada and elsewhere in the world.
Todd Matthews, another early foundation member, noted 62 bodies discovered in Nevada over the years remain unidentified.