Family unhappy with investigation, convinced body is of missing man

Published 12:13 am Monday, May 2, 2016

NATCHEZ — Family members of the missing Monterey man are convinced they found his body Friday night in a bayou several miles from where he lived.

Some members of Duell Moreland’s family said they feel the remains would have been found sooner if authorities had acted with more urgency.

Moreland, 26, was last seen March 29 at his grandparents’ residence in Monterey.

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Over the month her son was missing, Kim Murrell said she felt Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office did not treat the case with urgency.

“They treated it like he had just walked off,” she said.

Her husband, and Moreland’s stepfather, Steve Murrell said the family’s concerns about CPSO’s investigation were limited to the efforts to locate him prior to the discovery of what they believe to be Moreland’s body.

“I’m not trying to put them down, what they’re doing now, but we felt like they didn’t move quickly enough,” Steve Murrell said. “We’re not sitting here trying to run the sheriff’s department in the ground. We are appreciative of what they’re trying to do. But we’re disappointed that they didn’t move faster.”

Kim Murrell said she believes a more thorough search would have resulted in finding the remains sooner.

“I would have had an actual body to bury, instead of what I have now,” she said.

Moreland’s grandfather, Rufus “Buddy” Tiffee, said he and Moreland’s father, Stephen Moreland, discovered the body Friday evening.

The remains were mostly skeletal, he said, and were found in an area where Moreland had been known to spend time.

Tiffee said he was able to identify the body because it was still wearing a pair of his own rubber boots he had loaned to his missing grandson.

Additionally, Moreland had a steel implant in his ankle from an injury he sustained while horseback riding as a teenager.

The metal implant, Tiffee said, was visible to him when he discovered the body.

Tiffee also said the body appeared to him to have been burned at some point.

Steve Murrell said the family is convinced the remains are those of Duell Moreland.

“I know (the authorities) have to go through their proper channels, but we know it’s him,” he said.

The Louisiana State Police and the FACE Laboratory at Louisiana State University have taken over the forensic investigation of the body for positive identification, CPSO said Saturday.

Moreland’s mother, Kim Murrell, said the family was led to the location of the body by a tip they received from a local woman whom they know well.

The woman arrived at Tiffee’s residence on Friday, at the same time Concordia Parish Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick was visiting the residence to speak with the family concerning the missing person case.

Murrell said the woman explained in front of Hedrick how she heard through others about a possible location of the body.

“She said (she had heard) there was five people involved,” Murrell said. “And she told us where to look.”

The family declined to identify the woman who provided the information.

Steve Murrell, expressed concern about Hedrick’s reaction to the woman’s information.

“When you get that tip, it’s time to move,” Steve Murrell said. “Especially 32 days out.”

Murrell said the sheriff did not offer a CPSO boat to investigate the bayou the woman described. Tiffee instead borrowed a relative’s boat and asked several other relatives, including Moreland’s father, Stephen Moreland, to join the search.

Hedrick was still at the Tiffee residence at that time, he said.

“When they went down there and launched the boat to search, (Sheriff Hedrick) had the opportunity to go down there with them,” Steve Murrell said. “He didn’t go on the search. He didn’t go with them. These guys found the body.”

CPSO Spokesman Vernon Stevens said the sheriff’s office gave the case appropriate attention from the beginning.

“I’m not going to say anything against the family, but maybe they don’t understand procedures or how it works,” Stevens said.

“The sheriff’s office expended hundreds of man hours and searched thousands of acres on five different occasions,” Stevens said, adding that several other agencies including the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI were also involved in the search.

A relative of Moreland’s was arrested Saturday on a weapons charge, and police are unsure whether the two cases are related.

Hart L. Tiffee, 34, who resides at 679 La. 906, was arrested Saturday evening on a charge of possession of an illegal firearm.

Stevens said Hart Tiffee was arrested after deputies searched his house on a warrant and located a sawed-off shotgun.

Stevens said he was unable to describe what led to the search warrant being issued due to the ongoing investigation, but said the weapons violation is the only charge against Tiffee at this time.

Rufus Tiffee said Hart Tiffee is related to them somewhat distantly, but lives nearby and knew Duell Moreland well.