Winfield's "harmonica man" is most likely dead — and he may be the victim of a homicide, authorities said Tuesday.
Richard D. May, 77, was last seen Dec. 10 in Pawhuska, Okla. Winfield Police Chief Danny Parker said Tuesday that May's van was found several miles inside the Oklahoma Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska last week by ranchers burning off the grass.
May was not found, despite an extensive search of the preserve near the van.
"It's a very remote area," Parker said. "It's very difficult to get there with a regular vehicle."
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It would be virtually impossible for a disoriented person to drive there, he said.
"We're assuming that Mr. May is deceased, based on the fact that there's been no transactions at all with his bank or anything since Dec. 10 — and the fact that it would be highly unusual for him to go in that direction and go through all those cattle gates and end up where the van did, and then to get out of that van and try to walk somewhere," Parker said.
"It's still classified as a missing-person case, but we are treating it as a homicide," he said. "We're doing everything we can to collect evidence as if it were a homicide case."
Finding the van, Parker said, was the equivalent of "finding a needle in a haystack."
"We have a starting point" for the investigation now, he said.
The van is being processed for evidence, Parker said, but he would not go into specifics about anything that was found there.
Family members have been notified of the latest developments and also believe he has died, Parker said.
May was known as the "harmonica man" because he liked to play the instrument around town.