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The Body Of A Navy Veteran Was Found In His Apartment And Authorities Said He's Been Dead For Three Years

A spokesperson for the apartment complex told BuzzFeed News a "very unusual set of events" allowed the man's apartment to sit undisturbed for so long.

Last updated on November 23, 2019, at 8:42 p.m. ET

Posted on November 23, 2019, at 4:54 p.m. ET

WFAA / Via wfaa.com

The body of a missing Navy veteran was found inside an apartment where he is believed to have died three years ago, authorities said.

The remains of Ronald Wayne White were found on Nov. 10 in the kitchen of his apartment in the DeSoto Town Center complex in DeSoto, Texas, which is about 25 minutes outside of Dallas, the DeSoto Police Department told BuzzFeed News.

While investigating units in the building that didn't appear to be using any water, maintenance workers breached the door of White's third-floor unit and discovered his remains, DeSoto police Detective Pete Schulte told BuzzFeed News.

White had only just moved into the apartment and lived there for a matter of weeks before his death, which police estimated occurred at the end of October or beginning of November 2016. The cold weather at that time likely contributed to no one in the building noticing anything was wrong, Schulte said.

"When we walked in all of the windows were closed, locked, sealed tight, you couldnโ€™t even smell anything in the hallway," Schulte said. "He didnโ€™t establish any relationships with any neighbors, so it was a perfect combination of circumstances that allowed this to happen."

Schulte said the apartment complex was never listed as an address for White, who had sold a home in the Dallas area prior to his death, and that his family didn't even know he was living there โ€” and therefore never reported him missing to the DeSoto Police Department. He was also retired, Schulte said, and was never reported missing by an employer.

White's mother, Doris Stevens, told NBC News she last heard from her son around November 2016. Stevens said that her son, then 51, was a defense contractor who traveled frequently for his job, and he had bought a house in the Philippines and planned to move there after voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Stevens said she typically spoke with her son once or twice a month, and as months passed without word from him, she grew concerned.

When she had still not heard from White by April 2017, Stevens told NBC News, she contacted the Glenn Heights and Dallas police departments, based on his last known address, to file a missing person report.

"They asked how old my son was and I told them and they said, 'You can't make a missing person report for a grown-up,'" Stevens told NBC News.

Stevens spent the next three years searching for her son, telling the outlet that she considered hiring a private investigator but was unable to afford one.

White's mother told NBC News that she now partly blames the DeSoto Town Center apartment complex for allowing her son's whereabouts to remain unknown for three years.

David Margulies, a spokesperson for the DeSoto Town Center apartments, said a "very unusual set of events" allowed White's apartment to sit undisturbed for so long.

"He traveled extensively, his rent was paid automatically. Nobody inquired about him โ€” no family member, friend, or employer. There was no stack-up of mail," Margulies said. "None of the things that would have triggered a reason to go to his apartment happened."

DeSoto Town Center / Via apartments.com

When White's body was discovered, his family was only able to be reached via the emergency contact information listed on his apartment lease, Margulies said. In the three years since he was last seen, Margulies said none of the apartment's residents had any reason to suspect something was wrong.

"It was not unusual for him not to be there," Margulies said. "If someone knocked on his door and he wasnโ€™t there, they just assumed he was traveling."

Several years ago, a resident below White's unit had reported a leak coming from the ceiling, in the area in which Detective Schulte said White's remains were discovered. Upon investigating, however, apartment staff found that the leak had stopped, and when no one answered the door of White's apartment, they didn't pursue the matter further, Schulte said.

White's truck, a gray Ford F-150, was also found in the public parking area of the apartment complex, Schulte confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

Schulte said he understands why people may be quick to blame the apartment complex, but said DeSoto Town Center explained to authorities that its policy is to respect the privacy of its residents.

If apartment personnel had entered White's unit, "I donโ€™t think it would have changed the outcome," Schulte said, "just provided some closure for the family sooner."

The three-story DeSoto Town Center complex houses 161 units, according to Apartments.com.

The apartment complex is cooperating with police in the ongoing investigation, Margulies said.

White's cause of death is pending an autopsy report from the medical examiner's office, which did not immediately return calls from BuzzFeed News Saturday. Schulte, however, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that White's death occurred about three years ago.

Schulte also said that White was a diabetic and said there is "zero indication of foul play."

"There were nice things in the apartment, nothing seemed to be moved, there was no sign of forced entry," Schulte said. "It was probably a medical-type situation that caused this death."

Still, White's mother said she wants more answers in her son's death.

"When the medical examiner told me three years, my knees gave away. Three years? And that's what I can't get past in my brain. I can't get past three years," Stevens told WFAA. "My biggest question is, how in the world could my son have been dead in that apartment and nobody knows anything?"

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