Body found in Milton might be missing N.C. teenager

Note discovered with remains may be clue to identity; police head to Charlotte

Police guarded the scene Tuesday on Brierbrook Road near where the unidentified body of a young black male was found. Police guarded the scene Tuesday on Brierbrook Road near where the unidentified body of a young black male was found. (Bill Brett for The Boston Globe)
By David Abel and Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / November 20, 2010

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MILTON — Police visited a home in Charlotte, N.C., last night as they investigated whether the mangled body of a teenager found along a quiet road here this week is that of a high school student reported as missing there.

Milton police received an out-of-state call Thursday night regarding the missing boy, a high school sophomore and ROTC member. “It came out of the blue,’’ said Police Chief Richard G. Wells Jr.

The clue that may link the unidentified body discovered shirtless and shoeless Monday night and the missing 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale was a note found on the body, which appeared to be a school hall pass, bearing a first name beginning with a “D.’’ The rest of the first name was difficult to decipher, but the name appeared to be “Delvonte’’ or “Delconte’’; the last name appeared to be “Tisdale,’’ according to authorities.

Tisdale’s father reported the boy was last seen around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, according to a report released by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Milton Deputy Chief Charles Paris said police had yet to confirm that the victim was Tisdale and cautioned against leaping to conclusions, noting that someone else could have had Tisdale’s note in his pocket.

“It could be somebody different until we scientifically prove it,’’ he said.

Wells said a Milton officer and two state troopers went to Tisdale’s home in Charlotte last night. He said they were using forensic methods, including testing DNA samples and matching fingerprints to make a positive identification.

The medical examiner had not been able to determine the cause of death, Paris said.

“I’d imagine it has something to do with the condition of the body,’’ he said.

Some relatives of Tisdale’s said yesterday that they think the boy was running away, as he has done several times in the past year. They said he had a contentious relationship with his father and they think he might have gotten in a car with two friends, hoping they would drop him off in Baltimore on their way to Boston.

“My best guess was that he was trying to come back to his family,’’ Craig Tisdale, 18, an older half-brother, said from his home in Baltimore. “The guys he got in the car with were supposed to be friends. I think he was expecting to be driven back to Baltimore.’’

He and other relatives said Tisdale had 17 brothers and sisters from different parents and that he was a good kid who loved to spend time with his extended family and hoped to join the military after finishing high school. He said his brother reluctantly moved to North Carolina last year and thought he would just be there for a few months.

“He had a tough relationship with his father, but he was nothing but good,’’ Craig Tisdale said. “He was a great kid, always with a smile on his face.’’

Diane Turner, the mother of several of Tisdale’s siblings, including Craig, said the teen loved to play football and basketball and spend time with his brothers and sisters.

“It’s really hard for us right now, and it’s going to be difficult for all of us,’’ she said.

She said Tisdale’s mother, Jonette Washington, was with her former husband and the boy’s father, Anthony Tisdale, in Charlotte. Neither of them responded to phone messages left by a reporter.

“All we know is that he ran away,’’ Turner said, adding that she didn’t think the boy knew anyone in Milton or the surrounding area. “We really don’t know what happened.’’

Kathleen Johansen, a spokeswoman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which includes North Mecklenburg High School in Huntsville, N.C., said Tisdale was a 10th-grader at the school who participated in ROTC.

It was his first year at the school; he had just moved into the district. She said she did not know where he attended school previously.

Tisdale’s father had approached several school employees, included the ROTC instructor, a few days earlier this week to inform them the boy was missing and to ask whether they knew his whereabouts, Johansen said.

As of yesterday afternoon, the district had not been informed that the body in Milton was Tisdale’s.

“We just don’t know,’’ she said. “Nothing’s been confirmed with us.’’

The school system has several zones, each of which has its own superintendent. A woman in the Northeast Zone superintendent’s office said the lunch periods at North Mecklenburg High are labeled with the letters, A, B, C, and so on — bolstering the theory that the note was a hall pass allowing Tisdale to eat lunch during A period.

Neither a Charlotte police spokesman nor detectives returned messages seeking comment.

Wells said police have interviewed a number of potential witnesses, but he would not comment further. He said the department’s primary focus remained identifying the victim.

Two vehicles were impounded as part of the inquiry. Officials said one had a Curry College sticker in the rear window. Curry is about 1 1/2 miles from where the body was found. A Curry spokeswoman referred all inquiries to police.

Residents along Brierbrook Road were shocked after learning that the body had been dumped there.

Milton police have described the body as a young black male, about 5-feet-7, 120 pounds, with a slight build. The body was found about 22 hours after Tisdale’s father said he went missing.

Another half-brother, Kenneth Tisdale, 16, also of Baltimore and also a son of Turner’s, described the missing teen as “a very outgoing person.’’

“He was popular in most places and had a good attitude,’’ he said. “He didn’t have problems with anyone.’’

Norman Brown, a former next-door neighbor in Baltimore who said he was like an uncle to Tisdale, said the teen was “a happy child.’’

Yesterday, there were a number of posts on Facebook from friends and relatives expressing their sorrow for the loss of the teen.

“Today is the WORST DAY of my life,’’ wrote Erica Holloway of Baltimore, who identified herself on her Facebook page as his sister. She did not respond to e-mails or phone calls.

“I just found out my brother delvonte tisdale was found dead,’’ she wrote. “this is the worst holiday season of my . . . life.’’

Martin Finucane, John Ellement, and Maria Cramer of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent L. Finch contributed to this report. David Abel can be reached at