No mother wants to give up hope, but not knowing what happened to your child is an acute type of torture.
So while the phone call carried the worst news imaginable, it provided the closure that June Queen so desperately needed.
The Tallmadge mom learned this month that the body of her son, 1992 Ellet High School graduate Charles Kinkel III, had been found in a well in the Nevada desert — more than five months after he’d gone missing from his home in Silver Peak.
Then this week, Queen said the sheriff called again to say two suspects were in custody and one had already signed a confession to her son’s murder.
“From the 26th of July until [the sheriff] called and told me he had found the body, I was a basket case. I was deeply depressed and would just have periods where I’d break down,” Queen said. “But after the sheriff called, it was like a load was lifted off my shoulders ...
“People kept trying to say maybe he just threw everything down and walked away from his life, but I said, ‘That’s not my son. He wouldn’t do that.’ Now they believe me.”
A spokesperson for the sheriff of Esmeralda County — the Nevada town where Silver Peak is located — said no information on the case could be released until the sheriff returns from vacation next week.
But Queen said that she was told that up to three men who were with Kinkel at a bar the week of his 40th birthday may have been responsible for shooting Kinkel after leaving the bar and disposing of his remains in a well. Two of the men have been arrested and a third is under investigation, she said.
Kinkel was born in Nevada to Charles Kinkel II and a birth mother who had lost custody of him, Queen said.
When Queen met and married the elder Charles after moving from Akron to Nevada, he was trying to care for his infant son, who weighed little more than two pounds at his premature birth.
“I had him from the time he was 18 months old,” she said. “He was my son.”
In 1983, Queen’s roots pulled her back to Ohio and the family settled in Akron.
At Ellet High School, young Charles was involved in track and cross country, and was an avid member of the Civil Air Patrol. He wanted to join the U.S. Air Force, but developmental disabilities caused by his premature birth held him back.
He attended the police academy after graduation, but poor reading comprehension was his downfall, Queen said.
“He had big dreams of what he wanted to do, but he couldn’t do it,” his mother said.
Kinkel earned a commercial driver’s license and became a long-distance truck driver, and two years ago, he headed west to where his now-divorced father lived. There, he married Trayce Kinkel.
When Kinkel went missing, his wife told Nevada media that her husband had taken a job working for a mining company in Silver Peak. He’d lived there for several months — even joining the volunteer Silver Peak Fire Department — while his wife remained at their home six hours away in Wells, Nev.
Trayce Kinkel said she spoke with her husband the night before he disappeared, then tried to call him the following morning to wake him for work, but he didn’t answer his phone.
Queen said after Trayce had no success tracking her husband down, she called Queen at her home in Tallmadge to see if he was there.
“I said, ‘No. Why would he be here?’ That’s when she said he was missing,” Queen recalled. It was July 26, and he’d already been gone for two days.
Queen wondered if maybe the couple had fought and her son was just ignoring his wife’s calls, but then his abandoned car turned up off U.S. Highway 95 with gas in the tank and his cellphone still inside.
“I told the sheriff he would not take five steps away from that cellphone,” Queen said.
Kinkel’s whereabouts remained a mystery until Dec. 16, when some people in search of firewood came across an odd smell emanating from a well. They looked in and spotted the leg of a man.
After the body was found, one of the suspects in the case turned himself in and implicated others, Queen said.
Queen said her son will be cremated and buried at the Kinkel family plot in Sacramento, Calif., but she has already scheduled a spring memorial service for him at Goodyear Heights Baptist Church in Akron. It will begin at 1 p.m. April 5.
“My heart is broken,” Queen said, “but at least we have closure now. It’s been a terrible few months.”
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.