Relatives were not informed Devlin task force would disband

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Relatives of two missing boys said they were never notified that a task force looking into a possible link with accused kidnapper Michael Devlin would close its command center, and said they were disappointed with the decision.

The task force has spent nearly six months trying to determine if there is a link between Devlin and several cold cases around eastern Missouri. Investigators from several jurisdictions were working at the command center in an effort led by the FBI.

Authorities in January found two teenage boys in Devlin's apartment who were separately abducted from rural areas within an hour's drive of the Kirkwood apartment. Shawn Hornbeck, who turned 16 on Tuesday, had been missing for four years. Ben Ownby, 13, had been gone for four days.

FBI spokesman Pete Krusing said investigators continue to follow up leads now that they have returned to their separate jurisdictions. He would not say if any evidence has been found that links Devlin with any kidnapping other than those for which he was arrested.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum told the Washington Missourian last week that the task force had closed its office in Washington, Mo. Nothum did not return several messages seeking comment and patrol spokeswoman Julie Scerine declined comment.

Nothum told the Missourian that investigators have found no "smoking gun" linking Devlin to other cases.

"They followed up on a lot of circumstantial evidence and coincidences, but we have no physical evidence or witnesses at this point," Nothum told the newspaper.

Investigators had focused on the cases of Scott Kleeschulte, who in 1988 disappeared from St. Charles at the age of 9; and Charles "Arlin" Henderson, who in 1991 disappeared from Moscow Mills at the age of 11.

Relatives of the boys said they were left to guess what investigators have found.

"It kind of hurts," said Scott's father, Richard Kleeschulte. "You get your hopes up a little about something. It just didn't pan out I guess."

Arlin's uncle, Jim McWilliams, said investigators have not returned his calls and he does not know if there are any new leads in the case.

"You would think the FBI would have been considerate enough to at least come and say we haven't forgotten you," McWilliams said. "They haven't done it and that makes me very unhappy."

Lincoln County detective Chris Bartlett said in January that there were multiple pieces of evidence that made Devlin the most viable suspect in Arlin's case. Bartlett did not return several messages seeking comment on the case this week.

Kleeschulte said in April that investigators determined Devlin had hunted in wooded areas near the Kleeschultes' home in the late 1980s.

Devlin is being held in Franklin County on $1 million bail. He faces more than 70 combined charges in three Missouri counties and federal court for kidnapping, sexual abuse and attempted murder.

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