Investigators believe a body discovered Tuesday on a property along Cherry Road southwest of Joplin is male and could be a man who had been reported missing, according to the Newton County sheriff.
The "badly decayed" body was found on a property at 3517 Cherry Road after shots were fired at officers attempting to serve a search warrant at the address and a standoff ensued with kidnapping suspect and fugitive Freddie Tilton, 47, of Joplin, who finally surrendered when special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams shot tear gas into the residence where he was holed up.
Newton County deputies and Joplin police had gone to the property intending to conduct a search after receiving a tip that there was a body in some woods on the property. The body was located shortly after the conclusion of the standoff and is now being investigated as a homicide.
"We believe the remains are male," Sheriff Chris Jennings said Wednesday. "We have an idea who it is."
He said the body may be that of a man previously reported to have been missing. But positive identification will have to await an autopsy scheduled for Thursday at Frontier Forensics in Kansas City, Kansas.
Jennings said the body had not been buried and was found in a state of decomposition that would indicate that the death had taken place "more than a couple of days" ago. He declined to speculate further about the time frame of the death. The cause of death also has yet to be determined, but investigators believe the victim was slain.
The sheriff said there is no reason to believe at this time that the body discovered on Cherry Road is related in any manner to a braided human scalp discovered June 20 at a pond on the Holly Haven campground southwest of Joplin. The scalp has been sent to a forensic lab for determination of gender and other potentially identifying characteristics.
Tilton is in federal custody after having been charged in federal court on Tuesday in connection with the kidnapping of a woman July 19 in Neosho. He and Alvin D. Boyer, 35, of Rogers, Arkansas, are accused of luring the woman — identified in court records only as "S.T.," a former girlfriend of Tilton who had taken out a protection order against him — to a room at the Booneslick Lodge in Neosho, where Tilton allegedly assaulted her.
A motel employee who witnessed a portion of the assault called police and went to the room and knocked on the door. A male voice answered that he was pulling some clothes on. The door sprang open and the woman darted out of the room, bloodied and bruised. In the meantime, Tilton purportedly climbed out a back window of the room and made his escape.
Boyer remains a fugitive. No charges have been filed as yet with respect to the homicide discovered on the property on Cherry Road.