Thursday, November 18, 2010

Body of Pearland boy found near landfill

SOURCE: Houston Chronicle

After a fruitless day of searching Pearland at the direction of a person of interest in a local student's disappearance, investigators found the missing 18-year-old's remains miles away Wednesday night in a Fort Bend County field.

The body of Josh Wilkerson was discovered about 6:30 p.m. in an overgrown field where FM 518 in Pearland intersects with at FM 521, just west of the Brazoria County line, according to Lt. Onesimo Lopez, a Pearland Police Department spokesman. The site is near a landfill some 11 miles from the Pearland area where searchers spent Wednesday's daylight hours looking for the teen.

The hunt for Wilkerson had been called off at dusk, but the "person of interest" provided detectives with more information. That man is now considered a suspect in the death, Lopez said. As of late Wednesday, ,charges against him were pending.
"He is still being interviewed to get as much information out of him as we can," Lopez said shortly after the discovery of Wilkerson's remains was announced.

Lopez declined to provide details about the condition of Wilkerson's body, citing respect for the family and the integrity of the investigation. Police said they believed the teen may have been beaten.

Earlier Wednesday, more than 200 volunteers — including some of Wilkerson's friends - had searched through woody, weeded and watery areas near the Pearland Recreation Center and Natatorium, in the 4100 block of Bailey Road. He went missing Tuesday after his half-day at a Pearland ISD school, Lopez said.

Horses, drone called in
Searchers chased down unfruitful leads all day based on directions from the suspect - an 18- or 19-year-old acquaintance of Wilkerson's from the Pearland area, Lopez said.
The young man told about an assault and "Josh being left in a field somewhere," Lopez said.
Searchers focused on a field and on an old sand pit full of water near the natatorium, using a Pearland Fire Department boat and sonar provided by Texas Equu Search. Deployed resources also included horses, four-wheel all-terrain vehicles and an airborne drone.

The teen's usual after-school routine included video games, then a trip to the gym to work out.
"He didn't show up at home to play his video games, so the parents got concerned. After a while they decided they were going to go out and look for him," Lopez said. "He has friends in this immediate area, so they went driving through this area to see if they could locate his truck."

Truck found at strip mall
Wilkerson's parents found his vehicle parked at a strip mall in the 5000 block of West Broadway around 5 p.m. Tuesday, and called police.

"There was really nothing out of the ordinary with the truck, so the officers started the ground search trying to see if we could find him," Lopez said. "From interviewing the family and talking to other people, they figured out there's a pretty good chance that he didn't have a jacket and did not have any shoes on."

Pearland police detectives continued the ground search on foot through the night Tuesday, with a couple of four-wheelers and one 4x4 truck until about 5 a.m. Wednesday, when Texas EquuSearch was called to provide additional resources, Lopez said.

The volunteers and law enforcement, on foot and in four-wheelers, returned to the command center near the natatorium just before 5 p.m. Wednesday after the search was suspended.
Wilkerson's parents were not permitted to participate in the search in case something was found, but were "praying" and "circling the wagons," Lopez said.

The couple could not be reached for comment.
Chronicle reporter Dale Lezon contributed to this report.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's that smell?

TEXAS CITY, Texas — A smell similar to rotten eggs enveloped Texas City about 5 p.m. Monday afternoon after a leak from a subunit at BP’s Texas City refinery.

Workers were doing maintenance work on a sour water compressor on the refinery’s Power 2 unit when workers noticed a smell after a piece of equipment failed, company spokesman Michael Marr said. The odor, which forced some businesses on Palmer Highway about 13 blocks from the refinery to shutter their doors and close windows, lasted more than an hour.

The smell is believed to come from liquid in the subunit that contained hydrogen sulfide, which is a hazardous chemical that has a strong smell of rotten eggs, Texas City Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said. The Texas City Fire Department and BP industrial hygienists conducted ground-level air monitoring and did not find any readings of hazardous chemicals in the air, Clawson said.

Between one and two barrels of sour water — which is waste water that contains hydrocarbons and is pumped to an enclosed sewer system for disposal — spilled, causing the offensive odor, officials said.

There was not a shelter in place order for the city, but Clawson issued a phone and e-mail alert to residents notifying them of the situation.

There was a brief shelter in place order within the refinery for areas downwind of the leak, Marr said. BP set up an incident command center and the leak was contained at about 9 p.m.

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