When a Facebook friend reached out to Kim Wedel shortly after Fathers Day, her world sank. It had been nearly two years since her son, Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, had gone missing from Fort Hood in August 2019, mere days before he was supposed to receive his discharge.
His body was found 11 months later in June 2020 during the search for Spc. Vanessa Guillen, another missing Fort Hood soldier.
The problem, however, is that apparently not all of her son’s body made it to his Oklahoma home to be buried, Wedel said.
The notification on Facebook was that a bone fragment was found by the memorial marking the spot where her son had been found in Killeen. Within days, two more people reached out to her on Facebook saying they had found additional bones.
Wedel said the bones, which were determined to be human, had been turned over to the Killeen Police Department and sent for a forensic analysis to determine if they belonged to her son. After being brought three bones, Wedel said she believes it finally galvanized KPD to get back out to the area to look for more clues into the death of Gregory.
“I guess Greg just got lost in the whole Vanessa thing,” Wedel said, referring to the disappearance and death case last year of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen, which made headlines worldwide, “No one thought to say when they recovered his body that, ‘hey, we’re missing about 30 bones, so let’s go back out.’ If you knew not all his remains were there, why not go back out? Say something? It’s kind of disheartening.
“We had a funeral for my son, and it wasn’t even all of him.”
The death case has been a difficult one for local police, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble said on Thursday.
“We were literally nine months behind,” said Kimble, referring to the time from the soldier’s disappearance to the day his remains were found near the wooded field in a residential area along the 3200 block of Florence Road.
Furthermore, it was the Army’s case to begin with. KPD did not become the lead investigative agency until after Wedel-Morales’ skeletal remains were discovered in the field in June 19, 2020.
Army investigators also responded to the scene, and did do a search with dogs, Kimble said, adding he did not if the dogs were trained cadaver dogs, which specialize in finding human remains.
Kimble said KPD detectives did do a complex “grid search” of the field at that time.
“We recovered a lot of bones,” Kimble said. “Nearly a complete skeleton.”
They also found animal bones in the vacant field from squirrels, cats and other animals. Kimble said the field is likely used by area residents to dump chicken or rib bones.
“There was a lot in that field,” Kimble said.
It’s quite possible some bones from Wedel-Morales were missed in the initial search, Kimble said. Animals and the elements can scatter and bury bones.
“That is not uncommon,” Kimble said.
Of the new bones found in the past week, Kimble said many of them were “marble-sized fragment bones,” and they are being tested to see if they belong to a human or animal.
Kimble said he does feel investigators did a very thorough search of the area last year.
When residents started finding new bones in the field during the past week, he said KPD reached out Team Texas K-9, which has cadaver dogs, to help search the field again.
Wedel said she has now been in contact with the detective in charge of Gregory’s case more in the last week than the entire time since she filed a missing person report in August 2019.
Team Texas K-9, who arrived on the scene Tuesday, works free of charge for Police Departments in order to search for missing persons, both live and dead.
In all, the team and their canines recovered an about 24 small bones on Tuesday, according to the canine group.
“We went out with about eight or nine handlers and canines,” Allen Fields, partner for Team Texas K-9 said. “We got just about everything and headed back.”
Wedel was thankful for the K-9 team’s help.
“The K-9 team said they are pretty sure they got all of him now, so I’m hopeful no one else will call and tell me they found more,” Wedel said. “I was told they were sent for analysis to make sure they are Greg’s. I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of — if they are Greg’s, or turn out to be someone else’s.”
The search for her son had been a disaster since the beginning, she said. When he disappeared, she was told that he was an adult and there was nothing Fort Hood or KPD could do for her. Gregory was placed in an absent without leave status, or AWOL, and later declared a deserter. It wasn’t until his body was found and evidence pointed to foul play having occurred at least as early as the time he went missing that his status was returned to “active duty at time of death” to allow for a military burial.
“It’s still an open investigation, so I don’t really know anything,” Wedel said. “Fort Hood (CID) just keeps telling me that Killeen is handling it, so it has nothing to do with them. I just hope at this point that someone out there knows something and will come forward, no matter how small the information. I would like to know what happened to my son.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command said Thursday the investigation is still very active, however, and a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone with credible information concerning the circumstances surrounding the death is being offered.
“The Killeen Police Department remains the lead in the investigation and we are working closely with that department, said Chris Grey, CIC spokesman. “We have also worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service.”
Kimble said KPD is also working closely with Army investigators.
“Persons with information can contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170. They can also anonymously submit information at www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html. They can also contact their local police departments,” Grey said.
Tips can be submitted to the Bell County Crime Stoppers by calling 254-526-8477 or by reporting online at bellcountycrimestoppers.com.
Wedel said she is still numb at the news and is having difficulty processing the fact that not all of her son may have come home. Her most difficult decision, she said, was what to do with the final pieces of her son’s remains if forensics determines they are his.
“I actually decided to donate them to Team Texas K-9, so they can use them to train new dogs so other people can get the same help finding their loved ones,” she said. “I can’t just dig him up and bury them with him again, and I think Greg would be OK with that decision for that very reason.
“They even named their new puppy after Greg. I think it’s appropriate.”