Archive for Wednesday, October 16, 2002

County water team aids recovery of body

October 16, 2002

About 15 members of Leavenworth County's 2-year-old Water Rescue and Technical Services Team worked last weekend as part of a two-county murder investigation squad.

The team concentrated its efforts beneath the bridge on the Kansas River near De Soto, where a man allegedly had been dropped from the bridge.

About 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the team located the body of a man, wrapped in a blue tarp with concrete blocks wired to his body in water less than 2 feet deep.

According to the police department of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas, City, Kan., the victim was Deangelo Wheeler, 25. It was believed that Wheeler was murdered Saturday at 4702 Crest Drive, Kansas City, Kan.

Capt. Michael Kobe of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas, City, Kan., police department, said three people face charges in Wyandotte County District Court.

Robert Buehler-May, 19; Ryan Goldenberg, 25; and Kyle Cavaness, 19 are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. A fourth person, Alisha Gray, 22, is charged with aiding a felon in connection with Wheeler's death. The defendants were scheduled to make their first court appearance on Tuesday.

During interviews with suspects on Saturday, police officers learned the victim had been taken to the bridge near De Soto and thrown into the river, Kobe said.

Although the search was concentrated on the Johnson County side of the river, the Leavenworth County water rescue team was asked about 2 p.m. Saturday to assist.

Partly because of the late start in the day, and partly because the river water table was too low to run an outboard motor, Saturday's search was nonproductive. Early Sunday morning, the Leavenworth County water rescue team assembled at the Sherman station in Linwood for planning. By 8 a.m. they were at the bridge.

"We were in the water by 9 o'clock and at about 10 o'clock we had a good systematic search going," said Dan Tallman, a member of the water rescue team and fire chief for Sherman Township Fire Department.

This included using one team member Nikki Briggs as a profiler to keep track of what areas searchers had covered and where any evidence might be found.

"She sat on the bank and drew a picture of the whole area," Tallman said, noting she used trees and large rocks, as well as stationary debris in the river, as landmarks. "Information was relayed to her as far as where the persons were whether we moved a boat's length, or whether we moved two feet."

About a half-hour before finding the body, team members broke for lunch. They then went back to the same spot they had been searching and continued, walking three men side by side, in the water, where they discovered the body about five minutes later.

Joe Seaman, a dive master on the rescue team, was the one who found the victim.

"I stumbled into him," Seaman said. "We were in about knee-deep water at the time."

Although the water was fairly shallow, the body wasn't visible.

"Your visibility in that water is probably less than six inches, so there was nothing at all to see," Seaman said.

Earlier, searchers had walked in the same area, Tallman said.

"It's amazing that we didn't find it before because that water is so shallow there," Tallman said. "He was silted in. You could see the bottom, it was less than two feet deep there."

Workers also had searched the deepest area of the river, using a boat and poles to feel the river bed about eight feet below.

Detective Bob Lane of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas, City, Kan., Police Department, said he was impressed with the organization and attention to detail shown by the Leavenworth County water rescue team.

"I've been a policeman for 21 years and I've never seen anything like this as far as a recovery," Lane said. "I've seen a lot of bodies recovered but they usually don't take this much effort."

The group followed their training lessons, Seaman said.

"We did everything by the textbook from the very start on Sunday," Seaman said. "What we call a search is very thorough. We cover every square foot. We don't consider it to be searched until we've scoured it with the full use of our team."

Tallman said during the summer the group worked two other investigations a suicide and a homicide in the Missouri River at Leavenworth. But at the time they worked the homicide, team members believed it was an accidental drowning. This weekend's investigation was the first time the group went into a scene thinking they were looking for a homicide victim.

Tallman said the water rescue group was formed in 2000 more with the thought in mind that they'd be working floods not murders.

"I don't think it was perceived that we'd go this far," Tallman said Monday.

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