Candlelight Vigil Held for Stockton Man Who Went Missing a Year Ago

STOCKTON -- Many neighbors only knew Leonard Nedervelt in passing. Still, that means they knew him better than most.

"He has a stepson, but other than that, he has no family, and so we've adopted him," said Michele Okazaki, Nedervelt's co-worker.

"So somebody has to talk for him, somebody has to speak for him," said Tami Whelan Serrato, Nedervelt's neighbor.

They've organized search parties dating back to last August, ever since the 72-year-old went missing. He was out in his own neighborhood walking his dog along the Greenbelt near Weston Park in Stockton.

"His dog came back with the leash attached," Whelan Serrato said.  "The dog came back and he didn't, and that was heartbreaking for everybody."

And Monday night, just over a year since Nedervelt went missing, they prayed by candlelight for answers about what happened to him. They grappled with last week's news that a badly decomposed body was recovered at a local slough.

"There is a lot of speculation that it could have been him, and we know that's a high probability, but at the same time, we still have so many unanswered questions as to how he ended up in the water," Okazaki said.

The San Joaquin County Coroner's Office tells FOX40 they submitted those remains for DNA testing. They say it will take four to six weeks for a positive identification. But Nedervelt's neighbors have reason to believe the remains are his.

"He got removed from the national database for missing person list like the next day," Whelan Serrato said.

"If he was a small child. everybody would be out here knocking down doors looking," she said.

"He was a very hard worker, Leonard was also a veteran. And that's one of the many reasons why we came together as a community, to help try to find out where he is and what's happened to him," Okazaki said.