On the evening of June 7, 2017, 19-year-old Tanner Ward, a devoted father, left his family home after kissing his daughter goodbye, promising to return in just 30 minutes. His mother, preparing dinner, asked if he would be back for the meal he requested, to which he assured her, “I’m only gonna be gone 30 minutes, go ahead and fix a piece for me.” However, Tanner never made it back to enjoy the dinner prepared for him.

Tanner, on a positive trajectory in life with a fiancé named Megan and their daughter Sophia, was described as a great father by his sister, Kelsey Ward. Despite facing challenges during his teenage years, Tanner’s life seemed to be taking a turn for the better.

When Tanner failed to return home after visiting his friend Jeremiah, a recent acquaintance, concern grew among his family. Kelsey, familiar with everyone in Trenton, had never heard of Jeremiah before. Tanner’s unexpected absence and lack of communication were out of character.

On June 7th, the night Tanner disappeared, Kelsey retraced her brother’s steps and eventually arrived at Jeremiah’s residence. With no response at the door, she entered the apartment after finding it unlocked. The scene inside was chaotic – the back door wide open, a significant hole in the wall, and furniture overturned as if a violent struggle had occurred.

Amidst the disarray, Kelsey discovered Tanner’s baseball cap lying in the middle of the room. Alarmed, she immediately reported her brother missing to the police, bringing the cap as evidence. Despite filing a missing person report, two weeks later, there was no progress or additional information regarding Tanner Ward’s whereabouts.

As Tanner’s family grappled with the growing realization that something was seriously amiss, especially given his strong connection to his daughter Sophia, Kelsey took proactive measures. She began distributing homemade flyers in the area, hoping to gather information. During this effort, she unexpectedly encountered Jeremiah, who was wearing the same shirt Tanner had on when he disappeared on June 7th.

Kelsey, understandably alarmed, questioned Jeremiah about why he was wearing her brother’s shirt. She also noticed what appeared to be burn holes from a cigarette on the shirt. Jeremiah insisted they were only stains, but when Kelsey threatened to involve the police, he willingly agreed to accompany her to the station.

Trenton Police Chief Thomas Wright reported that they thoroughly investigated Jeremiah and his potential connection to the case. Anomalies on the shirt, resembling burn holes or potentially bloodstains, were noted. A voice-stress test was administered to Jeremiah, yielding results compelling enough for law enforcement to search Jeremiah’s father’s property in Edinburg.

With the assistance of cadaver dogs, scrutiny was given to a burn pit on the property, but only animal bones were discovered. Despite a meticulous six-foot by ten-foot forensic dig, no further evidence emerged. At this point, it seemed that Tanner’s case was hitting a standstill, with the investigation showing signs of going cold.

The heart-wrenching saga took a tragic turn when, due to Tanner not owning a cellphone, police were unable to trace his digital footprint on the night of his disappearance. Exhaustive efforts to follow up on leads led to d*ad ends, raising concerns that Tanner may have fallen victim to foul play.

Six agonizing months passed before a chilling discovery unfolded. On an icy December day, two childhood friends of Tanner stumbled upon a shocking scene while walking to school. Hanging from a high tree branch, just three blocks from Tanner’s family home, was the decomposed body of Tanner Ward. His fingers were mummified, and his feet were missing.

The only evidence at the site was a small pile of clothing on the ground, including pants, shoes, and a single sock. The clothing’s condition suggested an extended period at that location. An autopsy, using dental records for identification, confirmed Tanner’s tragic end. The initial cause of d*ath was ruled as su*cide, attributed to hanging by a rope with no other injuries found.

This ruling absolved Jeremiah of suspicion. However, rumors and conspiracies began to circulate in Trenton. Text messages hinted at the possibility of hom*cide, suggesting that Tanner endured months of t*rture before being m*rdered and stored in a freezer. Lisa Ward, Tanner’s mother, was haunted by a text detailing gru*some scenarios involving a baseball bat, a cellar, and eventual d*ath. Some speculated that Tanner was moved to the tree at a later date to simulate su*cide.

Chief Wright, however, dismissed these theories, asserting that the community spread rumors without evidence. Kelsey pointed out the absence of obvious signs of wildlife processing Tanner’s body, challenging the notion that he hung from the tree for the entire six months. The lingering question remains: Was Tanner stored elsewhere during this time, and who might be responsible for his tragic fate?

The discovery of Tanner’s body raised skepticism among those familiar with the area. Construction workers at a nearby site, only 25 feet away from where Tanner was found, expressed disbelief that the body went unnoticed until the day it was discovered. They used a storage building on the job and claimed to have never detected any foul odor during the hot summer months.

Even Tanner’s childhood friend, who had walked the path numerous times with his girlfriend, doubted that the body had been hanging in the tree for the entire six-month period. Another acquaintance of Kelsey asserted that she had played with her son beneath the tree during that time and observed nothing unusual.

The Ward family vehemently rejects the idea that Tanner took his own life. There were no indications before his disappearance that suggested su*cidal tendencies. His assurance to his mother that he would return for dinner served as proof of his intention to come home that day.

Tanner’s case gained attention on an episode of Crime Watch Daily, where viewers questioned the absence of his feet. Chief Wright attributed this to the natural effects of the body being suspended outdoors. The mystery deepened with the discovery of mummified fingers on Tanner’s body, a phenomenon inconsistent with Missouri’s humid climate, known for summer rainstorms.

Crime Watch Daily consulted police surgeon Dr. Bill Smock for his expert opinion. Dr. Smock suggested that the elongation in Tanner’s neck, caused by gravity pulling on the body’s weight, indicated that the body had been hanging for an extended period. He countered the notion that Missouri’s humidity precluded mummification, stating that in humid environments, mummification could occur in two to three months. Dr. Smock also noted that mummification typically involves the loss of internal organs, potentially eliminating crucial evidence. The conflicting perspectives contribute to the enigma surrounding Tanner’s case.

Law enforcement maintained the belief that Tanner had been hanging from the tree since his disappearance, emphasizing the likelihood that people wouldn’t have seen him due to their typical walking gaze and the fall foliage obscuring visibility. However, they did not provide a specific explanation for why others had not observed him before the tragic discovery.

Chief Wright mentioned that Tanner had started heavily using drugs, with friends and family confirming this information. Tanner’s involvement in a 2016 incident, where he and his brother entered a house armed and hostile over a drug deal dispute, resulted in a felony charge and probation.

Chief Wright linked this incident to potential retaliation, with rumors suggesting that Tanner was supposed to be harmed, not k*lled, but the situation escalated when he fought back. Stephanie Miller, the neighbor involved in the drug deal dispute, has not been named a suspect, and she denies any involvement in Tanner’s d*ath.

On April 18, 2018, the Trenton Police Department officially declared Tanner’s d*ath a su*cide following the completion of the autopsy conducted by a forensics firm in Kansas City, KS. The report asserted that the scene indicated self-suspension, and there was no evidence on the tree bark supporting the notion of external hoisting.

Detectives are waiting for additional evidence before considering a m*rder theory. The Ward family is left tormented and grieving, uncertain about the circumstances leading to Tanner’s d*ath. His daughter must now navigate life without the father who cherished her deeply. At present, there are no persons of interest in the investigation into the de*ath of Tanner Ward.

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