On a humid Louisiana morning in May 2001, a young mother called police because her two-year-old son had gone missing from her rural home in East Feliciana Parish.
The mother, then 19-year-old Ruby Renee Havard, said she left her son, Wesley Dale Morgan, on the porch of the two-bedroom house she was renting when she headed inside to make pickled eggs.
When she went back outside, Wesley was gone.
“We searched around the house, and we didn't find anything there,” says East Feliciana Parish Chief Investigator Don McKey, who was at the scene that day.
“The search grew to probably a 5-mile area in the woods, with the help of local firemen, Corrections, the state, West Feliciana, all the surrounding parishes. The FBI was notified and they came in, assisting us with searching and interviewing all the people that we could interview at the time.”
To learn more about the case of Wesley Dale Morgan and various other missing children, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Jeff Travis, who worked as a Department of Corrections Officer at Dixon Correctional Institute at the time, was one of the first on the scene with K-9 tracking dogs.
“A child that’s gone missing is something you never forget,” Travis tells PEOPLE.
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East Feliciana Parish Chief Civil Deputy Wendi Hooge remembers everyone in the area wanting to help.
“I was 20-something and I was working at a dentist's office," she recalls to PEOPLE. "There was a family in the dentist's office that was going to prepare biscuits and bring coffee out there to everyone that was looking.
“The whole parish really just tried to do anything that they could do to help the volunteers.”
The boy’s disappearance left the close-knit community reeling.
“The case of a missing child is very rare here,” says Travis. “I can't think of any other instances where this parish has ever really experienced anything like this."
Since the tragic incident, Wesley’s relatives have “hoped and prayed for many years that little boy would be found safe and sound,” Travis notes.
“The problem we have with the case,” says Travis, “is that we don’t know if Wesley is alive or not. There's been no closure for anybody on this particular case."
Authorities are still trying to learn what happened to the sweet little boy who vanished without a trace.
“We continue to follow up on anything that we get that could help us solve this case,” says Travis.
Havard did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
Anyone with a tip can call the FBI New Orleans at 504-816-3000 or submit a tip online (even anonymously) at https://tips.fbi.gov/.
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