A 14-year-old boy with autism who had been reported missing Monday after he didn’t show up to Valley Oak Middle School was found dead, according to Visalia police reports.
Dameian “Luke” Gulley was last seen walking to school around 6:30 a.m. Monday, and when his parents came home that night, they discovered he’d never made it to school. Miguel and Andrea Villegas filed a missing person report because they believed something had happened to the teen, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
His body was found Thursday, according to a news release sent out by Visalia police at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“We are with friends and family, gathering, grieving and mourning. That’s where we’re at right now,” Miguel Villegas said.
Gulley’s body was found in the Sequoia and Kings National Parks, according to law enforcement.
“Obviously his body wasn’t found within the city limits, but we are working with the FBI very closely,” Mestas said.
Mestas wouldn’t confirm whether the body was found in the park or the forest portion of the federal lands portion of the Sequoia-Kings parks.
“We take these cases very seriously, especially because he had special medical needs and medication,” she said. “This is a very, very active case and we are getting all the facts we can.”
Investigators spent all day with the parents. The parent’s ID’d the body and the body is in the custody of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Coroner division.
The FBI was notified through computer early on in the investigation and joined actively when the body was found Thursday afternoon.
The FBI will partner with the Visalia Police Department investigating the case, and other local agencies are expected to assist. Mestas would not confirm if the death was caused by violence.
Gulley’s parents had been at odds with investigators, who labeled the teenager as a runaway. Police who searched the boy’s room found evidence they say indicated Gulley ran away. But his parents had insisted otherwise.
They said, due to Gulley having Asperger’s, he had set routines and would not have deviated from those routines, such as walking directly to school. An undated note referencing how he’d miss his family, along with some missing money, had led investigators to believe Gulley had left home of his own will, his parents said.
While he was missing, Gulley’s parents say their son’s habitual nature — he became very stressed when taken out of his daily routine — should have cast considerable doubt on the working theory that he ran away.
During the search, Sgt. Paul Esquibel said that, while the missing teen’s special needs raised significant concerns, the situation didn’t necessarily change the department’s protocol. He had also said on Tuesday that, at that time, was no evidence pointing to any sort of foul play.