Father called Sheriff's Department before missing son found dead

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 | 7:08 p.m. CST; updated 8:17 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — The father of the 17-year-old who was found dead in a quarry Tuesday called the Sheriff's Department the night before about his son, a detective said.

"His father called us and said that he hadn't heard from his son since Friday, and the dad thought the son was hiding from the police," Boone County Sheriff's Department Detective Tom O'Sullivan said. "He wanted us to know that if he came into contact with us, tell him to contact Dad."

There was no actual missing persons report filed.

A worker at Boone Quarries found a body Tuesday that was later identified as James Hickem. O'Sullivan said his father's name is James Edward Hickem.

On Friday, four days before the younger Hickem's body was found, police responded to a call about minors drinking and smoking at the Cosmopolitan Park skate park.

Officers were questioning a girl about bottles of alcohol, when Hickem claimed the alcohol as his. As officers began to search him, he ran east. Hickem had a trespass warning from a previous incident that required him to stay out of the park.

The girl, Elizabeth Bopp, 17, of Harrisburg, was arrested on suspicion of being a minor in possession of alcohol and possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana.

Columbia Park Ranger Rosanna Arens said she issued Hickem a one-year trespass warning in October 2010 because he was part of a group that had marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the park. She said he violated that warning in May, so she extended it for another year, to May 2012.

Sgt. Jill Schlude, spokeswoman for the Columbia Police Department, estimated about six officers drove through the park searching for Hickem for roughly 50 minutes but were unable to find him.

The amount of time each officer spent looking for Hickem varied; some were only there for 12 minutes, Schlude said.

"They responded according to what the violation was," Schlude said. "If it was a felony, they would have gone the whole nine yards."

In Missouri, possessing alcohol as a minor is a misdemeanor.

The Columbia police likely didn't spend a large amount of time looking for Hickem because "it wasn't like he was a murderer or something," O'Sullivan said. "He's some kid who ran off because they caught him with alcohol."

Cosmo Park skate park is about one mile from Boone Quarries.

A rescue squad from the Columbia Fire Department responded to Boone Quarries first, immediately determined Hickem was dead and turned the case over to law enforcement, department spokesman Capt. John Metz said.

Metz would not speculate on the cause of death.

Schlude said that the police's investigation probably will be done within a few days. She could not say whether Hickem was intoxicated when officers encountered him on Friday.

Assistant Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein has completed the autopsy but is waiting for test results, Detective Jeff Nichols of the Columbia Police Department said.

O'Sullivan said that he thinks Columbia police probably thought they would catch up with Hickem another day, and even his father thought his son was only hiding from the police.

"I don't think anybody had any idea that he met the fate that he did," O'Sullivan said. "It's an unfortunate, tragic accident."

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William Hickem November 18, 2011 | 10:52 p.m.

I still dont understand how that more than one policeman couldnt have did better investigation or serch. If they saw him headed to a cliff,what other alternative was it that he below.30 or less min per officer doesn't really do a good serch. I wonder if there was a warrant would they have went farther

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