The man found dead in an Eagle River ditch on Tuesday was Clinton Reeves, the 24-year-old Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson airman missing for nearly 20 days, Anchorage police announced Wednesday.
Another airman is being held on evidence-tampering charges related to Reeve's disappearance but police on Thursday declined to say what caused Reeves' death beyond that he was a victim of homicide.
Reeves, a recently promoted senior airman, left work April 19 and a car he'd rented was found unlocked in northeast Anchorage and seized by police April 27. On Tuesday, three women walking on Golden Eagle Drive found Reeves' body off the edge of the road, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.
Parker said detectives were not releasing details about the condition of Reeves' body, how long it had been in the ditch or when he died.
A set of the airman's fingerprints discovered by the FBI late Wednesday was compared to fingerprints on the body and confirmed Reeves' identity, Parker said. Parker said he notified Reeves' parents, then Reeves' chain of command, late Wednesday before making the grim public announcement Thursday morning.
"Out of respect for the family and out of respect for the fact that this man was a treasured member of a band of brothers and sisters in the military, we decided to hold off on confirming that until this morning," Parker said.
The news came a day after police charged a fellow airman, 24-year-old James Devinn Thomas, with six felony counts of evidence tampering related to Reeves' disappearance. Thomas was one of the last people to see Reeves alive and allegedly destroyed evidence of a criminal and violent encounter in his Anchorage home. According to charges filed Wednesday, Thomas cleaned up blood, threw out a bloody love seat and burned two sets of clothes with blood on them. He also parked Reeves' rental car on McCarrey Street in East Anchorage, the charges say. Prosecutors say in the charging document that Thomas' stories about seeing Reeves shortly before his disappearance changed each time investigators talked to him.
Parker on Thursday would not say if detectives think Thomas killed Reeves or if someone else is responsible. Police have not suggested a possible motive in the slaying. Military investigators and Anchorage police continue to work on the case and will "leave no stone unturned," Parker said.
"This is where the investigation really kicks into high gear," Parker said. "We really have to keep the investigation clean and not release details that might jeopardize it. They're looking at all possibilities but at this point they have not assigned blame and have not charged anyone."
Reeves, the only child of Judy Davis and Terry Reeves, had recently received a check from an insurance company -- for between $4,000 and $5,000 -- after his vehicle was totaled in a wreck, his parents said. The airman was looking on Craigslist.org for a replacement vehicle around the time he went missing, Davis said.
Asked about the airman charged in relation to Reeves' disappearance, base commander Col. Rob Evans said it was too early to blame anyone for the death.
"It is unique," Evans said. "We will not pre-judge. We certainly defend the liberties that we enjoy as Americans and one of those is the concept of innocent until proven guilty."
Reeves' commander, Lt. Col. Patricia Csank, called Reeves "a beautiful person" and a hard worker. Reeves was a fuel technician who drove large tanker trucks to load fuel into jets and he was handpicked to refuel Air Force One when President Barack Obama stopped at the base after an overseas trip, Csank said.
"The aircraft you hear overhead every day, we say that's the sound of freedom. And he fueled the sound of freedom," Csank said.
"He had a tight-knit circle of friends," she said. "They all worked very hard. They worked 12-hour days here most recently. He enjoyed what he did. He had a great love of mission. He aspired to have a long and successful career in the Air Force and he was well on his way to that."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.