44 years later, case of missing Hawthorne child remains cold

 

A photo taken at Mineral County High School of then 15-year-old Michael David Jones was the last known picture of the boy who went missing on Nov. 14, 1973.

On Nov. 14, 1973, crowds of well-wishers cheered for Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips as they wed in the Westminster Abbey in England, but in Hawthorne, a boy was lost.

Last seen on that Wednesday night around 7:30 p.m. near the El Capitan Casino, where he worked as a bus boy, Michael David Jones would not be heard or seen live, again.

The 15-year-old boy with brown hair, a cowlick towards the back of his head which made his hair stand up near the part, had blue eyes and an innocent looking face. Small in stature, he was only five foot, five inches; he had been wearing a dress shirt, white in color with a paisley type design (fairly common during that time) with blue jeans and shoes that contained a buckle.

His Mineral County High School photo taken when school started that year shows Jones with a large smile on his face. This would be the last picture the family of Jones would have of the missing boy.

Months would go by. Nothing about the missing child would be in the Mineral County Independent and Hawthorne News. Christmas would pass, then Easter. No calls home. He would miss family events and special moments.

Almost a year later, in Churchill County, near Brady Hot Springs (between Fallon and Lovelock) on Sept. 17, 1974, the skeletal remains of a human were found by a State of Nevada Highway Department surveyor who had been checking survey markers in the area. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office would be contacted.

Upon the body, were the clothes that person had last worn. A white shirt with a paisley type design and blue jeans.

It would take nearly a month for the state pathologist to confirm that the body was that of a 15-year-old male. He had died of a skull fracture. The Churchill County Sheriff’s office reported to the Fallon Eagle-Standard that the youth had been killed elsewhere and dumped in the desert.

The parents of Michael (Vivian “Rocky” and Dorothy) would celebrate his sixteenth birthday on Oct. 14 without their son. No “sweet 16” celebration would be had by these parents. They would not be preparing for their child to drive. Instead – they waited.

The call came sixteen days after their son’s sixteenth birthday, the news that no parents wants to hear.

In a statement to the Mineral County Independent and Hawthorne News by then Mineral County Sheriff Hayden Combs, who had confirmed that the identity of the boy found dumped near Brady Hot Springs was, in fact, that of Michael David Jones.

Identification was made by Lieutenant G.G. Beeler, the dental officer at the Hawthorne Naval Depot, who had performed dental work on Jones.

Though his body remained in custody of the state pathologist, his parents could begin the process of closure.

The funeral of the Hawthorne youth would be held on a Sunday at the Hawthorne Cemetery. Next to his grave, his father, Vivian “Rocky” would plant a small sapling. Today, that sapling has grown into a large tree.

The obituary for the now found boy would be nondescript. Mention of his funeral, where he was born and the fact that he moved to Hawthorne when he was eight, as well as his surviving family was all that was mentioned.

No other word about Jones would ever be written into the Mineral County newspapers, until today.

Throughout the 44 years after his death, the question of what truly happened to Michael David Jones, has been questioned.

The case, still open, with the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, has been rumored to have leads. But no arrests have been made.

A confession from Henry Lee Lucas, a known serial killer and cannibal who had a victim profile of random men, women, young boys or hitchhikers, was once thought to be a possibility to the disappearance/murder of Jones.

Lucas, who some believe to be one part of the “Tag Team from Hell” with Ottis Toole or one of the greatest hoaxers of all times, admitted in confessions that he would “pick up victims along the interstate.”

His confessions had detectives in roughly 40 states, making appointments to visit with him to help clear cold cases off the books in many states.

Unfortunately, the case of Jones would not be closed, by the fabrications of Lucas.

Armed Forces Day 2016 would bring back Serpent Alumni from Mineral County High School Class of 1976. Pictured among those gone before their time in the yearbook, would be the photo Jones took right before his disappearance.

Fellow classmate Dean Johnson remembers Jones. “We were gentlemen to each other.” The two lived close to one another while growing up in our mile square town.

Keith Hughes, also a former classmate, remembers Jones like so many of this other classmates do. “He was quiet.” Others remember that his quietness often made people overlook the boy with the dimple smile.

“His life was tragically ended before he could fulfill his dreams and enjoy adulthood,” Anthony DeCrona, fellow student and former Mineral County Sheriff’s deputy stated.

The loss of his life at such an early age has left a mark on those who daily remember Jones.

His sister, Debbie, who was living in Texas at the time of his funeral, remembers that when Jones was found, her father didn’t want her to come home.

“I remember my father going out to look for him [Michael] that night [he went missing].”The loss was too great for her family to bear.

“I remember him daily as he made a lamp in shop class.” That lamp, still decorates the home of his sister.

Jones was only a year younger than Debbie and she remembers him as a good boy. He worked at the El Capitan Casino and would hang out at the pool hall (that was located in Hawthorne during at the time of his disappearance.)

Jones had two sisters and as the only boy of the family, Debbie would name her only son after her beloved brother.

“I loved him tremendously and miss him daily,” she explains to the Independent-News. The loss took a toll on the health of her parents, she exclaimed. Currently, Debbie is left to relish the memories of her sibling alone as her father as since passed and her mother battles Alzheimer’s.

The question of what happened on Nov. 14, 1973 to the 15-year-old Hawthorne boy still remains a mystery to authorities in our community. Unfortunately – his disappearance isn’t the only cold case that investigators longingly strive to solve here in the county.

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