Wesley Morgan was playing with four puppies in his Bluff Creek, Louisiana front yard on the morning of Tuesday, May 15, 2001. The 2-year-old was left unsupervised for a few minutes around 9:45 am, when his mother, 19-year-old Ruby Havard, went inside to boil some eggs. When she came back outside a few minutes later, Wesley and two of the puppies were missing. After briefly searching for him on her own, Ruby called the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office and reported Wesley missing.
Officials immediately launched a large-scale search for the missing toddler. Dozens of deputies, firefighters, and volunteers combed through the wooded area surrounding Wesley’s home on Louisiana Highway 63. One of the missing puppies was found on the opposite side of Highway 63; the puppy was found some distance from the home and deputies said they didn’t believe that a 2-year-old would have wandered that far.
As hours went by without any sign of the missing toddler, police brought in bloodhounds, horses, ATVs, and a helicopter to assist in the search. Firefighters used a portable pump to drain a small pond near the home; they were soon able to rule out the possibility that Wesley had fallen into the water. Deputies searched through a nearby creek and Sheriff Talmadge Bunch dove into a second pond located across the street from where Wesley was last seen. They found nothing to indicate that Wesley was in the area.
On Wednesday, officials with the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the FBI. Although they hadn’t found any evidence to suggest that Wesley had been a victim of foul play, they couldn’t eliminate the possibility. Agents spent several hours searching through the home Wesley shared with his mother and her boyfriend, 37-year-old Burnell Hilton; they also searched Burnell’s pickup truck.
On Wednesday afternoon, detectives questioned Ruby, Burnell, and Wesley’s father, Dewey Morgan, but they told reporters that they didn’t learn anything that brought them any closer to finding Wesley. Dewey, who had volunteered in the search for his missing son, admitted that he feared the little boy had been kidnapped; he didn’t think the toddler would have strayed far from his front yard and was concerned by the fact that he hadn’t yet been located.
A Louisiana National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment conducted several aerial searches of the area on Wednesday night but found no evidence that Wesley was anywhere near his home. Thursday morning, investigators used a cadaver dog to search several parts of East Feliciana Parish; the dog was unable to find any trace of Wesley.
Two days after Wesley was last seen, Chief Deputy Sheriff Paul Perkins admitted that detectives believed Wesley had been either kidnapped or mu*rdered. What had started as a routine missing person case had turned into a criminal investigation.
FBI agents focused their attention on the adults closest to Wesley; on Thursday, they administered polygraph examinations to Ruby, Burnell, and Burnell’s 17-year-old son. Burnell told reporters that Ruby wasn’t dealing well with the situation. “They’ve been treating us like murd*erers. They’re looking at the wrong people. But, like they said, they’re doing their job.”
On Friday, officials announced that Burnell had been arrested on charges unrelated to Wesley’s disappearance. He was accused of shooting a Zachary, Louisiana man in the face during an argument in October 1998; he was arrested for attempted second-degree mur*der.
Investigators widened their search for Wesley over the weekend. A large portion of East Feliciana Parish was searched on foot, horseback, and ATVs. Volunteers drove along all the backroads in the parish, checking culverts and driveways for any clues to Wesley’s whereabouts. Bluff Creek Assistant Fire Chief Darryl Buhler admitted that people were starting to get discouraged. “Now we’re looking for a kid down on the ground, unconscious or something else. Right now, we’re frustrated. Everybody’s tired and emotionally drained.”
Hundreds of volunteers participated in the search for Wesley; residents donated food and coffee for the search teams. Members of the close-knit community were stunned by the toddler’s disappearance and wanted to do anything they could to help bring him home.
Sheriff Bunch believed that those closest to Wesley knew more about his disappearance than they were admitting. “As deep in my heart as I can believe, that baby never left that house walking…he was carried out of there.” He was certain that Ruby and Burnell had done something to the toddler. “Both of them failed their polygraphs. They know something about this…his was off the charts.”
Although the sheriff believed that Ruby and Burnell were responsible for Wesley’s disappearance, he didn’t necessarily believe that they had k*illed him. He noted that the National Guard was confident Wesley’s body wasn’t in the area. “They told me they would have picked him up with their equipment even if he was buried two feet under the ground.” Sheriff Bunch thought it was more likely that Ruby had decided to sell or arrange for the illegal adoption of her son. “I’m praying and hoping that we can get this baby back alive.”
Sheriff Bunch appealed to the public for help in determining what had happened to Wesley. “We’ve gotten to the point that Ruby won’t talk to us…but somewhere down the line, she’s got to put her trust in somebody and that person could help us.”
Three weeks after Wesley was reported missing, the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted another search for him after consulting with a psychic who believed the little boy had been buried near a creek in Clinton, Louisiana. Investigators used a cadaver dog to search the area pinpointed by the psychic but came up empty. Sheriff Bunch admitted that it had been a long shot but he was desperate to find the missing toddler. “I may be crazy, but at this point, I’ll try anything.”
A couple of weeks after Burnell was arrested, Ruby apparently decided it was time to move on from him. She started dating a man who lived in East Baton Rouge Parish, and detectives searched his home after receiving reports that a toddler had been seen there. The man wasn’t able to provide them with any useful information about the case and investigators found nothing to indicate that Wesley had ever been at his home.
Sadly, by the time Wesley had been missing for a month, his case had completely faded from the headlines. Although investigators continued searching for the toddler, they didn’t believe Ruby was telling them the truth about what happened but were unable to prove otherwise. The case soon stalled and then went cold.
In December 2015, retired Baton Rouge police officer Richard Sobers spent a day standing in front of the East Feliciana Parish courthouse to raise awareness about Wesley’s case. Richard handed out missing person flyers and bumper stickers asking, “Where’s Wesley?” The retired officer noted that Wesley’s family had never seemed interested in finding the missing boy, and he didn’t think officials were doing enough to solve the case. “I don’t understand why people are not looking for him.”
Sheriff Bunch still believed that Ruby had been directly involved in her son’s disappearance and had most likely sold the toddler. “I know he’s alive somewhere.” In 2008, a pregnant Ruby had been charged with attempting to sell her unborn child to a married couple for several thousand dollars. The sale didn’t go through and the charges were eventually dropped, but investigators thought it was likely that Wesley hadn’t been as lucky.
Rhonda Covington, the public defender who had represented Ruby when she was charged in 2008, denied that she knew what had happened to Wesley. She claimed that Ruby was still hopeful that she would one day be reunited with her missing son, but detectives pointed out that Ruby hadn’t checked on the status of his case since shortly after he was reported missing. Perhaps most telling, Ruby and the rest of her family were not supportive of Richard Sobers and his efforts to help find Wesley.
In 2016, the FBI announced that they were reopening their investigation into Wesley’s disappearance. More than 20 billboards with information about the case were placed throughout Louisiana and Mississippi; the billboards included an age-progression photograph of what Wesley might look like as a teenager. Investigators hoped that the billboards would bring in some new tips and help them finally determine what had happened to the little boy. The agency also announced that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Wesley’s recovery.
Wesley’s paternal aunt, Mary Dufour, was pleased to learn that his case was being reopened. “I just hope and pray he hasn’t been abused…you just hope and pray for the best.” She noted that Wesley would be turning 18 the following year and she hoped he would be home with his family to celebrate his birthday.
Although the billboards helped generate a number of tips, none of them led investigators to Wesley and his case quickly went cold once more. Detectives continue to follow up on each lead they receive, but there has been no movement on the case in years. Some detectives believe that Wesley is still alive and simply unaware of his past; if so, he would be 24 years old now, perhaps with hazy memories of a childhood in rural Louisiana.
Ruby continues to maintain that Wesley wandered away from home while she was inside cooking eggs; although investigators believe this is the least-likely scenario, if Wesley did wander away it’s possible he was abducted by a stranger or he might have succumbed to the elements. Searchers combed through a five-mile area surrounding Wesley’s house and found no sign of the toddler; if he did walk away, he did so without leaving any footprints behind.
Wesley Dale Morgan was just 2 years old when he went missing from the Bluff Creek community in Clinton, Louisiana in May 2001. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are unclear and detectives do not believe he wandered away from his home. Wesley has blue eyes and blond hair, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 3 feet tall and weighed 40 pounds. Wesley was last seen wearing blue shorts, a gray Mickey Mouse T-shirt, and a pair of sandals. If you have any information about Wesley, please contact the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office at 225–683–5459.