Relatives of a missing man found dead inside his apartment in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, last week are searching for answers amid their grief.
Authorities say Ronald Wayne White had been dead in that apartment for approximately three years, a reality that has left his family in complete shock. White worked for a defense contractor, and his employment took him to several countries across the world.
He would’ve been 51 years old at the time of his death.
“I can’t hardly cope with it, to be honest with you,” his mother, Doris Stevens, told Dallas station WFAA. “I can’t hardly deal with it.”
Stevens, a resident of Long Island, New York, said she kept in contact with her son on a regular basis as he traveled for work, saying White would call her at least twice a month. She grew concerned, however, when the phone calls suddenly stopped three years ago.
White’s body was discovered when workers with the DeSoto Town Center Apartments were inspecting units where it appeared tenants had not been using water, according to local police. When they forced open the bolteds door to White’s apartment, they found the missing Navy veteran dead on the kitchen floor.
A medical examiner estimated he died three years ago.
“When the medical examiner told me three years, my knees gave away,” Stevens said. “Three years? And that’s what I can’t get past in my brain. I can’t get past three years. My biggest question is, how in the world could my son have been dead in that apartment and nobody knows anything?”
White’s third-floor unit was a new apartment and well insulated. According to police, all the windows were sealed and locked up tight, which may have contributed to how his death went undetected all these years.
“What I can tell you is it’s very clear when officers entered that [White] had been there for a while,” said DeSoto police detective Pete Schulte. “The way he was found, the way the apartment was arranged and so forth, there was zero indication of foul play.”
Stevens said she grew suspicious and knew something was wrong when she could not reach her son for his birthday in April 2017. In an interview with NBC News, she said White stayed in the U.S. to vote in the 2016 presidential election then planned to move to the Philippines, where he bought a home.
He had recently sold his home in Glenn Heights, a suburb of Dallas, but Stevens said she was unaware her son was living in an apartment.
She filed missing persons reports with several police departments and even tried pooling money for a private investigator. However, her frantic search hit a roadblock when authorities informed her they couldn’t pursue it as a missing persons case because White was a “grown up” and traveled extensively for work.
“All them days, holidays, I just suffered. Because nobody wanted to help find him,” she said. “They didn’t give me no kind of consideration.”
Last week, Stevens, 70, got a phone call from one of White’s adult children confirming he was dead.
The cause of death isn’t yet known, but Stevens said she doesn’t believe her son passed away of natural causes. She argued that the apartment complex is partly to blame for her son going unnoticed for so long, but representatives of DeSoto Town Center said White was frequently out of the country and that money for his month-to-month lease was automatically withdrawn from an account linked to his Navy retirement fund.
“Our maintenance personnel discovered his body when they identified and responded to a service issue at his apartment,” the complex said in a statement.
Two years ago, police say, a downstairs neighbor complained about a small amount of liquid seeping from her ceiling into her unit. Maintenance crews came to inspect the leak but moved on after it stopped and no one answered White’s door.
“We are cooperating with the police as they investigate this incident,” the company added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. White during this difficult time.”
Funeral arrangements for White are pending.
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