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Man’s body found near Kechi; relatives confirm identity

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 30, 2013, at 7:54 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 6:39 a.m.

Body found on North Oliver

Lt. Dave Mattingly of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office talks about the investigation at the scene where a body was found on Oliver north of 77th Street near Kechi Monday morning.

Law enforcement officials plan a briefing Tuesday morning to release more information about a body discovered near Kechi on Monday.

The body of a man was found shortly before 7:30 a.m. on the east shoulder of Oliver, north of 77th Street North in northern Sedgwick County, sheriff’s Lt. David Mattingly said. The body was found by a man walking his dog.

Late Monday afternoon, Mattingly and relatives confirmed the victim was 23-year-old Deandre Freeman Jr.

“We don’t know how long the body has been there,” Mattingly said. “We will be working it as a suspicious death or homicide.” Later Monday, in a news release, Mattingly said investigators are treating it as a homicide and are asking anyone with information about the victim and his activities from around Friday through Monday to call sheriff’s investigators at 316-660-5300 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.

Earlier Monday, Mattingly said there are signs of trauma on the body, but a cause of death was not readily evident. Investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy to confirm how Freeman died.

Late Monday afternoon, Freeman’s relatives and friends mourned at a family home near 13th and Grove. Women of all ages, some crying, gathered in the front yard and hugged one another.

His grandmother Gwen Lee said she thought she last heard from him at about 7 or 8 p.m. Sunday.

Freeman’s step-grandfather, James Potts, 55, said he worked out with his grandson at the Downtown YMCA up to five mornings a week. The younger man liked to be fit and look fit, Potts said.

When he called Freeman’s phone Monday morning, around 9 or 9:30, Freeman didn’t answer. “Wasn’t no reason to be alarmed,” Potts said. He figured his grandson had stayed out late the night before.

As people stood around at the family home, with grief and shock showing on their faces, Potts blurted out, “Oh, man, this is sad.” Later, he said, “This is terrible.”

Potts described his grandson as “mild-mannered and friendly.” He said he thought his grandson had worked in home health care.

For a while late Monday afternoon, sheriff’s officers and police officers converged along the same street where Freeman’s friends and relatives had gathered. For a time, sheriff’s officers walked along the street with one of their trained dogs. Asked why the officers and dog were there, Mattingly said he couldn’t comment. He said authorities expect to provide more information about the case to media at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The body was discovered in a rural area next to a field, but there are houses on large lots on that stretch of Oliver between 77th and 85th. Two horses grazed in a pen ringed by a white fence just south of where the body was found.

That stretch of Oliver is popular among walkers, joggers and bicyclists who live in nearby Kechi, said a man who lives in the area but did not want his name used.

He said he was shocked at the discovery of a body there, but Mattingly said this is not the first time a body had been found in the vicinity.

The body of Michael J. Fowler was found on Oliver just north of 85th Street in September 1988. Fowler had been shot several times and then his body dumped on the west side of Oliver. He was killed just a few days short of his 20th birthday.

Wichita police officials – including the head of both the homicide and gang units – were among the law enforcement officials to converge on the scene of Monday’s discovery. Authorities blocked the road, forcing people who live or work in the area to find alternate routes to their destinations.

“We’re going to take our time,” Mattingly said. “Once we leave there’s going to be no more integrity of the scene,” meaning any clues could be compromised.

Tips can be submitted at http://wichitasedgwickcountycrimestoppers.com or by texting TIP217 then the message to CRIMES (274637). Tips leading to an arrest are eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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