October 17, 2021

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Adolescent’s body found near Montezuma; clothing consistent with what Xavior Harrelson was wearing when last seen – Des Moines Register

The body of an adolescent has been found near the hometown of a missing 11-year-old Montezuma boy, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation official confirmed Thursday evening.

The clothing on the body was consistent with what Xavior Harrelson was wearing when he was last seen on May 27, Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the DCI, said at a news conference shortly after discovery of the remains. The gender was not confirmed.

Confirming the identity of the body could take eight weeks or more, Mortvedt said. However, officials did notify Xavior’s family of the discovery.

“We still don’t know much,” Mortvedt said. “We can make assumptions, but that’s always dangerous.”

Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, talks with reporters on Thursday, Sept. 30, after remains were found near Montezuma, home of Xavior Harrelson, 11, who has been missing since May 27. With Mortvedt is Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel.

The discovery prompted a heavy police presence near the town of about 1,500 people in Poweshiek County. A farmer tending to his bean crop near 110th Street and Ewart Road, about 4 miles from Xavior’s home, found the body in a nearby field, authorities said.

Xavior was reported missing just days from his 11th birthday. The boy was last seen near his home in the northwest part of the town, wearing a red T-shirt, blue pajama pants and black high-top shoes.

In the ensuing four months, the community has raised more than $35,000 through vigils, fundraisers and a benefit concert in hopes of enticing anyone with information to come forward. 

This is the scene near Montezuma where remains of an adolescent were found Thursday, Sept. 30. Montezuma is the home of Xavior Harrelson, 11, who has been missing since May 27.

Orange ribbons — Xavior’s favorite color — are wrapped around light posts and trees and featured at homes and businesses throughout the community.

As of last month, investigators said they hadn’t found any evidence of foul play in his disappearance, but they hadn’t ruled anything out.

More on Xavior Harrelson: 

The location where the body was found — off a dirt road, surrounded by cornfields, other crops and massive wind turbines — evoked the raw memories of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old college student murdered in 2018. She was reported missing after a run near her hometown of Brooklyn, also in Poweshiek County and 15 miles from Montezuma. Her body was found in a cornfield.

 “It’s horrible in any community,” Mortvedt said. “But again, on the heels of Mollie Tibbetts…” he continued, before trailing off.

“Two beautiful people’s lives ended terribly, tragically,” Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas E. Kriegel said. 

Organizers of the Fourth Annual Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Run, held Sunday, dedicated half of its donations to the Find Xavior Harrelson Fund.

Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas E. Kriegel talks with reporters on Thursday, Sept. 30, after remains were found near Montezuma, home of Xavior Harrelson, 11, who has been missing since May 27. With Kriegel is Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Law enforcement is asking anyone with information about Xavior’s disappearance to contact the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 623-5679 or the Missing Person Clearinghouse at 1-800-346-5507. And anyone who might have digital information regarding Xavior’s disappearance can submit tips, such as videos or pictures, at fbi.gov/findxavior.

Andrea Sahouri covers social justice for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at asahouri@registermedia.com, on Twitter @andreamsahouri, or by phone 515-284-8247.

Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at ncoltrain@registermedia.com or at 515-284-8361.

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