TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - For three weeks of 1998, a Lafayette man and Army veteran was missing. His decomposing body was finally located in a Tippecanoe County park near a popular hiking trail. But more than 15 years later, his killer has not been brought to justice.
Authorities scoured the woods in February 1998 around Davis Ferry Park on North Ninth Street Road after someone found a body near the Wabash Heritage Trail.
Indiana State Police (ISP) held a press conference on Feb. 26, where they reported their findings.
"We have determined that the body is that of a small-statured black male. We still don't know his age. He was partially clothed and the cause of death was gunshot wound," stated Det. Sgt. Jim Andrews.
It takes several days to attach a name: Kenneth Wayne Josey.
"It truly broke all of our hearts," says Josey's mother Catherine Paxton. "It will never go away, never go away. To lose a child and to lose a child traumatically like that, just devastating."
Kenneth had spent two years in the Army in the early '90s after graduating high school in Chicago, where he played football, wrestled and ran track. At first, he wanted to be a drill sergeant. But after a tour in Somalia, he got out in 1993 and moved with a friend to Lafayette.
"He was certainly the joy of my life," says Catherine.
Five years separated Kenneth from his older brother. There would be another 12 years before two younger brothers came along, so Catherine says there was a special bond between her and Kenneth.
To his friends and large family, he was known as Tenny, a childhood nickname derived from Winnie the Pooh.
In 1998, he was 27 years old. When his body was found Feb. 25, his body has been decomposing.
"It was cold and there had been a lot of rain, and it was not the (kind of) cold weather that would preserve a body that was out in the open," says ISP First Sgt. Tom McKee.
Kenneth was last seen Monday, Feb. 2, more than three weeks earlier.
He dropped his fiancee Marilyn Potter off at the old Jeff High School building at Ninth and Brown streets in Lafayette, which, at the time, was home to Ivy Tech. Marilyn was in school to become a nurse.
According to the missing person's report, he left the couple's 3-year-old son with the sitter, got a ride from a friend named Andre to a fast food restaurant to get lunch, then disappeared.
But perhaps a mother's intuition knew something was wrong almost immediately.
About 12 hours after Kenneth disappeared, but before she knew he was missing, Caroline says she woke up at 1 a.m. Tuesday with a pain in her heart. She didn't know why. She says she checked around the house to make sure everyone was OK.
Then, the same thing happened at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
"Again, I looked around. All I could do was just pray, 'Lord, whatever it is, prepare me for it,'" Caroline says.
Marilyn called up to Chicago with the news of his disappearance hours later, on a Wednesday.
However, the missing person's report wasn't filed until more than a day later, just after midnight Friday, the same day he was due in court for a misdemeanor charge of false informing.
At the time, Kenneth and Marilyn were also in small claims court. They had been targeted for eviction by their landlord at the time at 1302 Columbia St., Apt. 7.
Marilyn tells News 18, the two had been in a relationship for about five years.
In her missing person's report, she says Tenny fought with a man named Willie Keller at her mother's apartment. She told police she wasn't sure when it happened, but threats had been made.
For unknown reasons, the report gives the house number as 1716 Brown St. However, Brown ends at 13th Street so the real location is unknown.
Another name in the report could provide more clues: Steve Tuck. Tuck was sentenced just five months later to 50 years in prison for dealing cocaine.
In April, after he moved out of his home at 1218 Queen St., troopers searched the house. While detectives cannot tell News 18 if they discovered anything, Caroline says they found a newly repaired wall inside and blood.
"There was evidence of blood that was there, that coincided with Kenneth's blood. So they're thinking then that something must have happened in the apartment and he was removed from there," she says.
Because of his athleticism and his Army training, she believes Kenneth had to know at least one of his attackers. But investigators are not able to make any more definitive links.
"This one is truly cold. There's not much going on, there wasn't much to go on at the time," says McKee.
Three weeks later, Kenneth's body showed up at Davis Ferry Park. Police say, he wasn't killed here, instead someone dumped his body.
Despite the rains in February 1998, his body was far enough from the water's edge of the Wabash River that detectives know he didn't float to this spot.
To this day, police still don't have a motive. Though Kenneth had a few criminal charges in his past, traffic violations are most common, with the most serious a guilty plea in October 1996 to a theft charge from
Lazarus that didn't involve jail time.
Though it's been years since ISP got any tips, the case has not been forgotten for McKee, who helped search the woods in 1998 looking for clues.
"Because I was there, because I was there, it's a case that sticks with me that I would like to get it solved," says McKee.
So what happened Feb. 2, 1998? Where did Tenny go after lunch? Where was he killed? Was a mother's 1 a.m. intuition correct all along?
Investigators believe at least one person knows, maybe more.
"I'm confident someone knows what happened to him," says McKee. "But I think enough time has gone by that maybe they will be willing to come forward now."
Catherine thinks that knowledge would bring some closure to her family.
Yet, even without closure, life marches on.
Kenneth's 3-year-old, Dwayne, is now 19 and a sophomore in college studying business.
"We just say his dad would be so proud of him," says Catherine.
Kenneth also has an older son, Kenneth Jr., who is now 24. His three brothers are all adults now. He also would have seven nieces and nephews. But Catherine's husband, Kenneth's father, died a few years ago.
She adds it's the what-ifs that can be the most haunting, a life cut short when there was still so much left to do.
"It was hard, the hardest part of my life. I lost my mom and grandparents, but when you lose a child, it's hurtful, really hurtful," says says.
From prison, Steve Tuck declined to be interview for this story.
If you have any information about this case, call Indiana State Police's Lafayette post at (765) 567-2125 and ask for First Sgt. Tom McKee.
Next week in Part 4 of Cold Case Investigation, News 18 explores the cases of a pair of Purdue sophomores who went missing eight years apart.
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