Black Navy Veteran Missing For 3 Years Finally Found Dead in His Apartment

The remains of a missing Navy veteran was discovered in his Texas apartment where authorities said he had been dead for three years. The man’s mother is now demanding answers, saying that she tried to get at least two law enforcement agencies involved in the months after she last heard from her son.

Ronald Wayne White’s remains were found in his DeSoto Town Center Apartments in suburban Dallas on November 12. Maintenance workers came to White’s apartment while investigating units that did not appear to be using water and found his remains, DeSoto Police Detective Pete Schulte told BuzzFeed News. DeSoto Police did not immediately respond toThe North Star’s request for comment.

The 51-year-old had been dead “for an extended period of time, up to when he was last known alive three years ago,” the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement. White’s mother, Doris Stevens, told reporters that she last spoke to her son in November of 2016.

Stevens said her son had remained in the U.S. to vote in the 2016 presidential elections. The divorced defense contractor, who traveled frequently, planned to move to the Philippines following the elections, his mother told NBC News.

Shortly before his disappearance, Stevens said her son sold his home in Glenn Heights, Texas. The retired Navy senior chief petty officer had, unbeknownst to his family, moved into the DeSoto apartment complex.

In April 2017, after months of not hearing from her son, Stevens said she called the Glenn Heights and Dallas police departments to file a missing persons report. “They asked how old my son was and I told them and they said, ‘You can’t make a missing person report for a grown up,’” she told NBC News.

Knowing this was not the case, Stevens traveled from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas to visit both police departments several times. Stevens said neither agency gave her any “kind of consideration.” She attempted to hire a private investigator but was unable to afford one.

Sgt. Warren Mitchell of the Dallas Police Department told The North Star that the department had no record of Stevens attempting to file a missing persons report for her son with them.

Mitchell said that Dallas PD could not file a missing persons report for White since he was not living there. “It is not our practice to investigate a missing persons case if the individual did not go missing in our city,” Mitchell said. “The investigative responsibility would lie with the agency in the city where the Mr. White was last known to be located.”

However, Stevens said she reached out to agencies based on his last known address. She claimed that neither Dallas PD no Glenn Heights PD took her seriously. When she learned from the medical examiner’s office that her son had been dead for three years, she said her knees gave away, NBC News reported.

Why White’s Body Wasn’t Discovered Sooner

Detective Shulte told BuzzFeed News that a “perfect combination of circumstances” allowed White’s body to remain undetected for three years.

“When we walked in, all the windows were closed, locked, sealed tight, you couldn’t even smell anything in the hallway,” the DeSoto detective said. “He didn’t establish any relationships with any neighbors, so it was a perfect combination of circumstances that allowed this to happen.”

The apartment complex was not listed as an address for White, and because he was retired, he was never reported missing by an employer.

The DeSoto Town Center told BuzzFeed News that White paid his bills through automatic withdrawals from his account. The statement noted that White was frequently out of the country.

“He traveled extensively, his rent was paid automatically. Nobody inquired about him — no family member, friend or employer. There was no stack up of mail,” apartment complex spokesperson David Margulies said. “None of the things that would have triggered a reason to go to his apartment happened.”

White’s mother, however, thinks the apartment complex is partly to blame for her son’s body going undiscovered for so long.

“My biggest question is, how in the world could my son have been dead in that apartment and nobody knows anything?” she said to WFAA

Perfect Combination of Circumstances or Police Failure?

Tim Miller, director of the TexasEquuSearch, knows what it’s like to feel the pain of missing a child and not have law enforcement do anything to help. Miller’s 16-year-old daughter Laura went missing in a small town in a northern part of Galveston County in 1984. Her remains were discovered seventeen months later along with those of another missing girl. Laura had been murdered.

Miller told The North Star that he sympathizes with Stevens and other families with missing relatives. “I remember every minute of that 17 months,” Miller said. “And you know every time my phone rang or someone pulled into my driveway, I literally got heart palpitations. And then when Laura’s body was found, you know, I remember taking that small sigh of relief, at least I know.”

TexasEquuSearch, which launched in 2000, has helped families in 38 states and 10 different countries, recover the remains of more than 260 people, Miller said. He said his experience compels him to help families like White’s find answers and their missing loved ones.

“You know, I don’t care if it’s a drug addicted prostitute out there or if it’s a Natalie Holloway that disappeared in Aruba. I know that God loves them all the same and they all deserve the same amount of attention,” he said. Miller lamented the times that law enforcement left families to fend for themselves to find their relatives.

“Yeah, I mean so if you’re wealthy, blue [eyed], blonde haired girl that comes from an influential family, it’s media news and turns into world news,” Miller said. “If you’re a poor person that might be struggling, that may have a little problem…you’re put on the back burner.”

Data from the FBI shows that of the estimated 613,000 people reported missing in the U.S. in 2018, a majority are people of color.

Miller told The North Star that authorities were required to investigate cases involve missing children or adults if they have disappeared in “strange circumstances.” When asked if law enforcement had failed White and his family, Miller said that authorities “totally dropped the ball on this one.”

“They failed on him and they certainly failed on his parents,” Miller said. “You know, after Laura’s body was found, there’s only one thing worse than having a murdered child, it’s probably that they’re dead somewhere out there and you’re unable to say goodbye.”

He said that conducting a wellness check on White “would have been the most simplest thing they could have done.”

However, Mitchell of the Dallas PD told The North Star that there are certain factors that are needed to trigger a wellness check. Mitchell said someone asking for a wellness check must prove that there is reason to be concerned about the actual wellness of a person.

Mitchell noted that when requesting a wellness check, an individual would have to indicate that the person needing a check “may be in harm,” including those who may have a disease or those who are supposed to be home but haven’t shown up. He did not note why White’s case wouldn’t have qualified for a wellness check, other than noting White did not actually live in Dallas. White’s mother, of course, did not know where her son was living.

White’s cause of death is not yet known. An autopsy with toxicology results can take up to 90 days, according to the medical examiner’s office.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.