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Where's Mikey?

A mother's search for her missing son dead-ends in Denver.

After more than a year of living on the streets of Denver, time was running out for Michael Allen Wells. The 29-year-old drifter may have sensed something bad heading his way when he called his mother in a state of near-panic, jabbering about a dead girl and two "bad guys."

"Mikey said, 'I got away from those bad guys, Mom,'" recalls Linda McHenry, Wells's mother. "He was talking a mile a minute."

A few days later, on the morning of October 4, 1994, Wells called his mother again at her home in Carlisle, Ohio--collect, as usual. The call came from a pay phone in Pocatello, Idaho. Wells said that he'd hopped a freight from Denver and that someone was buying him a bus ticket to California. It was the last conversation McHenry would ever have with her son; although he'd checked in regularly with her throughout his wandering, troubled life, he never called again.

Three years later, McHenry is absolutely certain that Wells is dead--a victim of foul play, as the police put it. And she thinks she knows who killed him. But despite police inquiries in several states and McHenry's own relentless quest to find out what happened to her son, his body has never been found, and the mystery of his disappearance remains unsolved.

Officially, the death of Mike Wells can't even be classified as a homicide. Unofficially, it's been a matter of supreme indifference to most of the law enforcement agencies McHenry has contacted for help. The frustrating case is a graphic study in how terribly anonymous--and cheap--life on the street can be.

McHenry has made three trips west in the past three years in search of leads in her son's case, dipping deep into her savings as an assembly-line worker. She's consulted psychics, posted fliers with Mikey's picture in homeless shelters, tracked down the phone booths he called from, visited seedy gin mills frequented by hobos, and even searched lonely arroyos on Indian reservations for her son's body. Her most discouraging encounters, however, have been with police detectives who've been reluctant to pursue the case, even though a strong suspect surfaced only weeks after Wells disappeared.

McHenry recalls one Idaho investigator who simply refused to do anything. "He flat told me to my face he wasn't going to do nothing and there was nothing I could do to him," she says. "But one of these days I'm going to knock on the right door, and someone's going to open that door and help me."

Life dealt Wells a bum hand from an early age. While still in his teens, he suffered a head injury in a bicycling accident that left him "kind of slow," McHenry says. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and developed a drinking problem. Unable to hold any job for long, in 1993 he decided to leave Ohio and go in search of his father, a truck driver McHenry had divorced decades before who'd moved to Colorado. McHenry and Wells's two sisters were unable to talk him out of the plan.

Quiet and sweet-tempered, Wells learned to ride the rails and mix with society's dregs. By the time he reached Colorado, his father had already left, but Wells liked Denver and decided to stay on, working for day-labor agencies and making the rounds of the shelters. Yet by the fall of 1994, he was eager to clear out of the Mile High City, possibly because of the "bad guys" he told his mother about in a September 30 phone call.

According to McHenry, Wells gave her an agitated, semi-coherent account of hopping a train bound for Nevada with a girl named Sherry. Somehow the girl fell off the train, was struck by an oncoming train on another track and was killed. Wells and the men he was traveling with ("They're really bad guys, Mom," he told McHenry) were taken off the train, escorted to the nearest town, questioned and released, he said.

"I remember his exact words," McHenry insists. "All three of them had to sign a statement about what happened to that girl, and then the police told them to get out because they were all homeless."

McHenry was ill when Wells called and didn't press him for details about the location of the incident. None of the railroads operating routes between Colorado and Nevada at that time have any record of an accidental death such as the one Wells described. McHenry doesn't know what to make of the call, but she says she's sure of one thing--Mikey said that one of the bad guys he was traveling with was a man named Clemens.

A few days later Wells reached Pocatello and spent two nights in a shelter there. Then he dropped off the map. Two months after his disappearance, police in Provo, Utah, arrested a man on charges of beating and kicking his fiancee and smashing the jaw of a friend who tried to stop him. The man said he was Michael Allen Wells, and he had a Social Security number and an Ohio birth certificate to prove it.

There was only one problem. The man wasn't Wells. A fingerprint check pegged him as Michael Todd Clemens, a 32-year-old Maryland native with a string of aliases and a long history of assault, theft and drug charges in several states.

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2 comments
derrickmorris31
derrickmorris31

Just wanted to let everyone know he was found and body was brought back to Ohio but my grandma was done passed and gone before this I'm derrick morris and mickey was my uncle rip

derrickmorris31
derrickmorris31

My name is derrick morris mickey was my uncle and he has been found

 
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