Sheriff pledges to find funding to unearth the bones in the well
Sheriff Greg Hagwood will discover what lies at the bottom of a Meadow Valley well — he’s just not sure how to pay for it or when it will happen.
|“I’m going to find out what is in the bottom of that well.”
Sheriff Greg Hagwood
Hagwood had appeared before the supervisors Aug. 5 and outlined his plan for unearthing the human bones that are believed to be in the well. He discussed the costs associated with the effort, which total nearly $100,000.
That meeting concluded with the supervisors saying that they wanted to test the public’s sentiment. Hagwood said that meeting left the public with the impression that he was asking for permission.
“Two weeks ago I was not seeking permission,” Hagwood said. “I don’t come to the board for permission. I come to the board to confront financial realities in the most responsible way.”
Hagwood described a scenario in which he could have proceeded with the investigation and then come to the supervisors for funding after the fact.
Hagwood said past sheriffs have had contingency funds to call upon for unforeseen investigations, up to $1 million about 14 years ago. Hagwood doesn’t have a fund to cover such costs; however, that doesn’t mean he is abandoning the investigation.
“But it needs to be clearly understood,” Hagwood said. “I’m going to find out what is in the bottom of that well.”
Speculation is that it is the body of Mark Wilson, who was just 13 when he disappeared from his Meadow Valley home nearly 47 years ago.
Three cadaver dogs have indicated that there are human bones in the well, but there is no guarantee that they belong to Wilson.
An audience member, who identified herself as a classmate of Wilson, said she was offended that the public assumes that it’s Wilson’s body in the well.
“Obviously there is an easy link to my classmate, Mark Wilson,” the woman said. “But the community needs to stop doing it. It could have been someone from New York.”
Hagwood said that the investigation “is not specific to an individual family,” but all are aware of the circumstances and proximity to the Wilson case.
Nansi Bohne, a former county supervisor who was sitting next to Betty Wilson, Mark’s mother, said it’s unreasonable to think that people wouldn’t talk or speculate about the well.
Bohne suggested that the money for the investigation come from the mental health department. The sheriff’s presentation immediately followed Mental Health Director Peter Livingston’s request to spend $88,000 on computers.
The sheriff began to respond when Bohne said, “I’m asking Peter.”
Livingston said the money is to provide services for people with severe mental illness.
Bohne argued that the situation was impacting people’s mental health.
Hagwood said, “If there is a legal and ethical mechanism to allow us to spend mental health money, Mr. Livingston and I will explore it.”
Hagwood said he would be exploring all funding options, resorting to what he referred to as Plan B.
“Plan B may include a lot of different entities,” Hagwood said and listed universities and private foundations among the options.
Plan A would have involved the sheriff’s department, the FBI and a mining company. Plan A would have the project underway as soon as possible.
Plan B means that there will be a delay. “I’m not optimistic that it will be resolved this calendar year,” Hagwood said.
That admission prompted the property owner to stand. “This has been weighing heavy on us,” he said.
“This has been a nightmare,” his wife said. (Both declined to have their names printed in the newspaper.) “Have you ever been told there’s a body in your front yard?”
Betty Wilson also stood and thanked Supervisor Lori Simpson and Sheriff Hagwood for “being as wonderful as can be” during this time.
Wilson said she has had a good life during the past 47 years, but would appreciate knowing definitively what is in the well.
The discussion was serious and emotional at times, but there was one moment of brevity. An audience member suggested that the sheriff begin accepting donations from the community to pay for the excavation.
“There are measures of creativity we will exhaust before I hold a bake sale,” he said.
The supervisors were fairly quiet throughout the discussion, but Supervisor Sherrie Thrall, who had asked during the last meeting that any decision be delayed until the public had a chance to weigh in, asked, “Why is the public acting like I’m the person making the decision?”
“It is not the board, it is solely mine,” Hagwood reiterated yet again of the decision to continue the investigation and unearth what is in the well.