Boy’s family grieves — and waits

Police work to identify body found in Milton

Delvonte Tisdale, who lived with his father in this Charlotte, N.C., neighborhood, was reported missing last Sunday, a day before a body was discovered in Milton. Delvonte Tisdale, who lived with his father in this Charlotte, N.C., neighborhood, was reported missing last Sunday, a day before a body was discovered in Milton. (Davis Turner for The Boston Globe)
By Maria Cramer and Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / November 21, 2010

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The family of a missing North Carolina teenager grieved yesterday, as investigators worked to determine whether the unidentified body found last week on a quiet Milton street was that of the 16-year-old boy, and if so, to unravel the mystery of how the teenager ended up dead nearly 900 miles away from home.

Authorities have not identified the body as Delvonte Tisdale, but over the past two days they visited his family’s handsome brick and beige house in Charlotte and reached out to those who knew him for clues to his disappearance.

Tisdale, a popular, outgoing student who belonged to his high school’s ROTC program, was last seen in Charlotte last Sunday, the day before the battered body of a young man was found on a residential street near the Blue Hills Reservation.

There was no identification on the body, but police found a school lunch pass bearing what appeared to be Tisdale’s name in the boy’s jeans pocket. Police in Milton later received a tip from an out-of-state caller that led them to North Carolina.

Relatives said they believe Tisdale, who was living with his father in a middle-class neighborhood in Charlotte, ran away last weekend, which family members said he had done several times before. They said Tisdale had a contentious relationship with his father and may have been heading to Baltimore, where he had family.

Authorities in North Carolina and Massachusetts declined to provide updates on the case yesterday.

But in North Carolina, detectives interviewed students who knew Tisdale through the ROTC program.

“I think they are trying to do their due diligence and track down every lead they can,’’ said Jeff Siegel, producer of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, where, he said, Tisdale did volunteer work last Saturday with other ROTC members to raise money for the school program. “I hope they sort out what happened.’’

Tisdale was scheduled to return to the festival Sunday but never showed, he said.

The Tisdale family in Charlotte did not speak to reporters yesterday. But neighbors said they were shocked at the possibility the boy could have been the victim of violence.

Carol Brinson, 61, described him as an unfailingly polite youth who would often practice ROTC maneuvers in his yard. He recently offered to carry several bags of her leaves to the curb, she recalled.

“In a million years I can’t even imagine what happened,’’ she said.

Brinson said Delvonte’s father, Anthony Tisdale, recently moved to the neighborhood with his wife and five children. She said Tisdale, a chef who wanted to start his own catering business, always wanted his children to dress neatly and look their best.

“My heart is bleeding for him, because they really love their kids,’’ Brinson said.

Brinson said the news has alarmed the neighborhood, a close-knit community where residents usually “feel safe going to the grocery store and leaving your doors unlocked.’’

Yesterday morning, a neighbor placed a bouquet of flowers on the steps of the Tisdale home and said people were trying to support the family any way they could.

“Everybody is going, ‘What can we do for them?’ ’’ she said, declining to give her name. “They’re just so nice.’’

Meanwhile, family members in Baltimore were grieving as well. On her Facebook page, the mother of several of Tisdale’s siblings wrote that Delvonte would forever be “in our hearts and our souls.’’

“I know that you’re being well taken care of with those beautiful angels in the sky,’’ she wrote.

His sister, Erica Holloway, wrote on Facebook that her little brother would “truly be missed’’ and that he had run away from his father’s house and been found dead in Boston. She posted a picture of Tisdale.

Tisdale’s father reported the boy was last seen around 11:30 p.m. last Sunday.

Less than 24 hours later in Milton, a passerby found the body, which was so badly mangled that an autopsy failed to determine the cause of death.

A half-brother in Baltimore, Craig Tisdale, 18, said on Friday he thought Tisdale may have gotten in a car with two friends bound for Boston, hoping they would drop him off in Baltimore on their way north.

Craig’s mother, Diane Turner, told the Globe on Friday night that “we really don’t know what happened.’’ Turner said she didn’t think Tisdale knew anyone in the Boston area.

Authorities went to Tisdale’s home Friday to test DNA samples and take fingerprints. They interviewed neighbors yesterday.

In Massachusetts, police said they have interviewed a number of potential witnesses and have impounded two cars as part of the inquiry, including a white sedan that matched witness descriptions of a vehicle seen leaving the area. The car was found in a parking lot in Dorchester’s Lower Mills neighborhood, near Milton.

Relatives described Tisdale as an upbeat, popular teenager who loved playing sports and spending time with his family and hoped to join the military after high school.

Craig Tisdale said Tisdale had reluctantly moved to North Carolina last year and thought he would only stay a few months.

Tisdale was “nothing but good,’’ he said, a great kid who always had a smile on his face.

Maria Cramer can be reached at; Peter Schworm at;