Coroner ID’s 72-Year-Old Stockton Veteran’s Remains 15 Months after His Disappearance

STOCKTON -- Nearly three months after detectives recovered human remains from Walker Slough in Stockton the coroner confirmed they belonged to Leonard Nedervelt.

The 72-year-old veteran had been missing for fifteen months.

"I can stop looking all over wherever I go to see if I see something," said neighbor Tami Whelan.

The news has helped his neighbors come to terms with his loss, but his disappearance is still shrouded in mystery.

Walker Slough is 1.3 miles from Weston Park, Nedervelt’s neighborhood and the place he was last seen alive, walking his dog. It would have taken them 30 minutes to walk to the slough.

Somehow, Nedervelt’s dog managed to walk all the way back home alone, with its leash still attached.

"We really feel it's doubtful that he would walk himself up there with the dog," Whelan said.

The San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office says they have not yet determined a cause of death. One theory is that if Nedervelt fell into the slough, he could have floated downstream. The problem with that is the slough is overflowing with water hyacinth.

"I don't believe that at all," Whelan said.

Nedervelt didn’t have any family in Stockton, so his neighbors organized search parties. They have held community meetings with police and even had a candlelight vigil this August to mark one year with no answers.

On Friday, to their dismay, the neighbors learned the remains were Nedervelt’s when they saw his death announcement in the local paper.

"More than likely, had we not called the mortuary today, we wouldn't know about the services that are planned," said neighbor Michelle Okazaki.

The Stockton Police Department was handling his missing person’s case. Now that Nedervelt has been found, they are waiting on a cause of death. Then they say, they can determine what, if any, investigation will follow.

"If there is somebody running around here in Weston Ranch that has done this to him, I think we should know as a community," Whelan said.