(TRENTON, Mo.) Nineteen year old Tanner Ward was reported missing on June 9, 2017. On Monday, December 4, authorities recovered a body in a wooded area in Trenton, Missouri that would later be identified as the missing teen.
Ward’s body was discovered by two teens walking through the wooded area on their way to school. Authorities said Ward's body was found hanging in tree, near the walking path. The body was in late stages of decomposition leading police to question what lead to the teen's death.
“We very much believed with the circumstances surrounding Tanner’s disappearance and some other mitigating factors, we believed that there was foul play involved, but none of the evidence points to that now,” Trenton Police Chief Tommy Wright said.
Ward’s body was taken into custody by the Grundy County Coroner for an autopsy and pathologists determined Ward’s death a suicide. However the family is not convinced foul play wasn’t afoot.
“I don’t believe this is the first murder in this town that’s been hid. This is not just our family’s problem. This is this entire town’s problem. And it’s time that this town stood up for the people in this town and did something about it before other people’s kids turn up missing and come up dead and they rule it as a suicide,” Tanner’s Aunt Valarie Haug said.
The family is now reaching out on social media, seeking support and any information from the community via Facebook.
Susan Alexander is an admin for the Facebook group Missing and Endangered Northwest Missouri and Surrounding Area. The group is providing an online outlet for the family and friends of Ward to circulate the petition.
“We are searching through social media trying to put connections together, trying to figure out where he was and who was the last person to see him. It’s like this big puzzle you are trying to put together and bit by bit we are,” Alexander said.
There is also a petition circulating on social media resquesting signatures from resident ibn Grundy County to bring in outside law enforcement agencies for a deeper investigation of Ward’s case.
“I think the difficulty in this case is that there was a lot of misinformation. A lot of folks inserted themselves,” Wright said.“We will give it some time until we get the autopsy back and then we will do whatever the autopsy indicates.”
“This was mismanaged and this was wrong. We want justice for Tanner,” Haug said.
The family is seeking out a second autopsy for additional clarification, but the family does not believe Tanner would commit suicide.
“He was making plans for when my dad came home from deployment. He wanted to ask his long time girlfriend to marry him, he had so much planned,” Tanner’s sister Katie Ward said.
The family is also attempting to contact Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley for assistance with Tanner’s case.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family. We offer our condolences,as this has been an emotional time.This is a small town, Tanner was a 19-year-old kid when he left. We certainly didn’t want to see it end this way,” Wright said.
There will be a rally in support of ‘Justice for Tanner’ Sunday, December 10 at 2 p.m. at the Trenton Townsquare. The memorial service for Tanner Ward will be held at the RestHaven cemetery in Trenton, Missouri at 6 p.m.