Illegally adopted? The disappearance of Wesley Dale Morgan
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
I’ve covered a lot of missing persons cases. In most of them, there’s an unwritten, unspoken understanding that the person being covered is almost certainly dead. But in today’s case, even the people investigating believe the person in question is still alive. Let’s talk about Wesley Dale Morgan.
Wesley Dale Morgan was born on March 14, 1999 to Ruby Renee Havard and Dewey Morgan. Renee would have been about 17 when her son was born, and her teenage relationship with his father didn’t last. They split up when Wesley was still very young, and shared custody of him.
By 2001, 19-year-old Ruby and 2-year-old Wesley lived with Ruby’s boyfriend, 37-year-old Burnell Hilton Jr., in Clinton, Louisiana. There aren’t too many details publically available on Wesley’s disappearance. We know he was last seen around 9:45 on the morning of May 14, 2001, playing with puppies on his front porch. His mom went inside to start cooking lunch — but when she came back out to get Wesley, he was gone.
the initial investigation
Ruby called the police that morning, and they spent the next several weeks searching through a 5 mile area of woods around the home. Searchers looked on foot as well as utilizing thermal imaging, cadaver dogs and helicopters. The Louisiana National Guard was called in, and Mike Foster, then-governor of Louisiana, reportedly declared a state of emergency to fund their flight (though I’m not sure how that works). Early in the investigation, Sheriff Talmadge Bunch contacted a “psychic detective” because there was no sign of Wesley and investigators were desperate. (Something similar happened in the case of the St. Louis Jane Doe, which I did an entire video on.)
Ruby Havard was questioned, but denied any involvement in her son’s disappearance. According to The Charley Project, Ruby thinks investigators are biased because of her lifestyle. I’m not entirely sure what this refers to; the only thing I can think of is that the family is lower class, but there might be more information there that isn’t publically available.
Ruby and Burnell Hilton Jr. both voluntarily took polygraphs later that year. One source said they failed the polygraphs, but another said the results weren’t being discussed by the FBI, who has been involved in the case since pretty early on.
Ruby’s relationship with Burnell fell apart almost right after Wesley went missing. A month later, she’d started dating someone new. This new boyfriend was also questioned by police and had his home searched.
About two weeks after Wesley’s disappearance, police found out through the investigation that Burnell Hilton Jr. was responsible for a murder that took place in nearby Zachary in 1998. He later pled no contest to aggravated battery.
Then, in 2008, something happened that doesn’t usually happen in these cases. Ruby Havard was arrested for allegedly trying to sell one of her children. I don’t know what gender this child was or how old they were at the time. A few sources said Ruby was pregnant with said child when she allegedly tried to sell them. The child was reportedly put into state custody and a hearing was scheduled. (I guess it’s possible to put an unborn child into state custody, but I will admit ignorance on the topic.)
The charges were dropped later that year. According to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate, there was “evidence the proposed payment legally covered legitimate expenses.” I’m not really sure what this means; I’m assuming it means whatever payment or selling/adoption went on was legal, but again I will admit ignorance. As always, any additional insight is welcome.
This incident is probably where the main theory in this case comes from: That Wesley was given away by Ruby in an illegal adoption. To this day, this is still the theory that investigators believe. Sheriff Bunch thinks Ruby sold Wesley because she was afraid she was going to lose custody of him anyway.
In more recent years, retired Baton Rouge policeman Richard Sobers has been working hard to keep Wesley’s case in the front of people’s minds. Since around 2012, he’s been handing out fliers, arranging things like balloon releases and, at one point, planned on raising money for billboards. According to Sobers — who isn’t officially working on the case as an officer — Wesley’s family doesn’t seem to want to be that involved in the search for him. The Charley Project also claims Ruby rarely asks police about how the case is progressing.
In a 2016 article, a sergeant said they’d never stopped investigating the case. However, an article published a month earlier said the case had just been reopened. Whatever actually happened, police and the FBI does seem to have renewed the search for Wesley, buying billboards in Louisiana and Mississippi, conducting searches all over Clintonand setting up a tip line. The latest update I found was from May 2018, when a butterfly release was held in Wesley’s honor. His family did not participate.
According to her lawyer, Ruby believes Wesley is still alive. She also thinks police came up with the theory that Wesley was sold because they had to find someone — or something — to blame his disappearance on. Several sources referred to her as ‘Ruby Renee Havard Freeman’ so I assume she got married at some point. As of August 2021, neither she nor anyone else has been arrested in connection with Wesley’s disappearance.
There aren’t really any ‘theories’ about Wesley’s case, other than illegal adoption. A few online speculators have questioned Ruby’s actions that day, such as why she left a 2-year-old alone outside or why she was making lunch at 9:45 am. One person was skeptical of a 19-year-old being able to arrange an illegal adoption. Others suggested Wesley was kidnapped or that Ruby’s then-boyfriend was involved. And many, many people said they hoped Wesley really was sold or illegally adopted. This would mean he’s still alive and being raised by someone who would be happy to have him — even if they might not have gone about it in the best way.
Wesley Dale Morgan was 2 years old when he was last seen at his home in Clinton, Louisiana on the morning of May 14, 2001. He is classified as endangered missing. Police believe he was illegally adopted and possibly taken to Mississippi.
Wesley is a white male who was 3 feet tall and 40 pounds at the time of his disappearance, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Wesley might go by his middle name. He was last seen wearing a gray Mickey Mouse shirt, blue shorts with a green stripe on them and sandals. If he were alive today, he would be 22 years old.
There are a lot of missing details and contradictions in this case, but hopefully you get the basic idea of what happened. And, of course, I would love to know your thoughts on this case in the comments below. Do you think Wesley really was illegally adopted, or do you think something worse might have happened to him?
If you have any information about the disappearance of Wesley Dale Morgan:
East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office 225-683-5459
Crime Stoppers: 504-822-1111
FBI: 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324)
There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to Wesley’s whereabouts.