Xavior Harrelson

Xavior Harrelson in an undated photo provided by the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office.

MONTEZUMA — Authorities on Thursday said they located the remains of a child in a farm field northwest of Montezuma.

The location of the field is not far from where 11-year-old Xavior Harrelson was reported missing on May 27. Law enforcement confirmed Thursday they located the remains, but did not confirm whether or not it was Harrelson. Investigators added it appeared the remains had been there for some time.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt told media Thursday evening that the clothing found on the scene was “consistent with what we knew Xavior last to be wearing.” Harrelson's family had been notified by law enforcement prior to Mortvedt's comments to the media. Thursday marked 4 months and 3 days since Harrelson was first reported missing.

"It's going to be quite a time — as far as in, like weeks maybe even a couple of months — before there is able to be positive identification and confirmation as to who this is," Mortvedt said.

There has been no suspect or person of interest identified in Harrelson's disappearance.

Authorities say at about 2 p.m. Thursday, a local farmer called the Poweshiek County Sheriff's Office to report finding what he believed were human remains in a farm field. The office responded and confirmed that the remains were found in a grassy area near a farm field north of Montezuma. The site is about 4 miles from where Harrelson went missing.

The Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office and a state anthropologist responded to the scene. The investigation is ongoing as authorities try to verify the identity of the remains and the cause of death.

The area where the body was found had not been previously searched on foot by law enforcement during their investigation into Harrelson's disappearance.

Harrelson went missing just days before his 11th birthday. A family friend reported him missing on May 27, and that he was last seen at the Spruce Village Mobile Home Park in Montezuma. Local and state agencies, and the public, joined on searches that covered a one-mile radius from the mobile home park, including the Diamond Lake Park area west of Montezuma.

On Sept. 9, a tip led authorities to the Fox Forest County Recreation Area again, but law enforcement didn’t release many other details.

Over the course of the investigation, donations and community fundraisers compiled a reward of more than $34,000 for information that assisted the investigation.

Harrelson's disappearance had baffled authorities, who came up with no evidence of note after days of searching following his initial disappearance.

The case also was intertwined in the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmhand who was ultimately convicted of the 2018 killing of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in Brooklyn, another Poweshiek County town located about 11 miles northeast of Montezuma.

The disappearance was reported as prosecutors made closing arguments in the case against Bahena Rivera, with some of the same investigators who worked to find Tibbetts leaving the trial to search for Harrelson.

In post-verdict hearings, lawyers for Bahena Rivera appealed for a new trial and tried to tie the Tibbetts and Harrelson cases together. They claimed, based on their investigation and two witnesses, that a sex trafficking ring was located in the area that prompted the disappearances and other missing people in the area. But they failed to convince a judge there should be a new trial, and investigators have emphatically refuted the claim. The lead prosecutor, Scott Brown, said the story didn't match Bahena Rivera's own testimony on the stand.

“No evidence supports it. None. Zero,” said Brown, an assistant from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Courier. He can be reached at kocker@oskyherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.


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