Police: Human remains could be Iowa boy who vanished in May

This image provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety on May 28, 2021 shows 10-year-old Xavior Harrelson. On Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, investigators searching for Harrelson, who vanished in May days before his 11th birthday, said they have found human remains matching his description in a cornfield outside of Montezuma, Iowa. (Iowa Department of Public Safety via AP) (Uncredited)

MONTEZUMA, Iowa – 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 of 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, which responded to the scene, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation assistant director Mitch Mortvedt told KCCI-TV.

State agents, Iowa medical examiner and the state anthropologist also responded and confirmed that they were remains, he said.

“It appears to be that of an adolescent and at this time, the clothing that we see on scene, even though it's obviously soiled and stuff, is consistent with what we knew Xavior to last be wearing," Mortvedt told the station.

He said authorities were not ready to identify the body as belonging to Xavior, adding that the state medical examiner and anthropologist have “a lot of work left ahead of them in the days and weeks even to come.”

Authorities said they had relayed the news to Xavior's mother.

The boy's disappearance from Montezuma, a town of 1,300 people that is 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) east of Des Moines, had 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 (24.14 kilometers) 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 for years 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 of persons of interest have been named in Xavior's disappearance.

A 50-year-old man who was a boyfriend of Xavior's mother has come under scrutiny and been 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 the nearby Diamond Lake County Park and other areas for him.

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."