Investigators discovered the remains of a young, African-American child Tuesday morning in a wooded area of Clarksburg in Montgomery County after a search that spanned about 30,000 acres and multiple days. Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said officers believe it is the body of 11-year-old William McQuain, who had not been seen for more than two weeks. Clothing on his body appears to match what he was wearing on Oct. 1, the last morning police have evidence of him alive.
Authorities began searching for William after his mother, 51-year-old Jane McQuain, was found dead last Wednesday in the bedroom of her condominium in Germantown, about 30 miles northwest of Washington. Her estranged husband, Curtis Maurice Lopez, 45, was arrested the following morning at an EconoLodge in Charlotte, N.C., on a warrant charging him with first-degree murder in her death. He declined at a hearing Monday to fight his extradition back to Maryland.
Lopez is the main suspect in William McQuain's death, but authorities must first conclusively determine the child's identity before charging him with the child's murder, said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman.
No motive was immediately apparent, though McQuain's former boyfriend said she had recently expressed concerns about her safety and had been fighting with Lopez, an ex-con. It was also not immediately clear if Lopez has an attorney.
A search warrant drawn up by Charlotte police says officers found a box cutter knife and nine $100 bills in his motel room, along with Jane McQuain's cell phone and assorted clothing. Police also found 18 copies of a marriage certificate inside McQuain's car, which was parked in the EconoLodge parking lot.
The car was involved in an accident in Charlotte one night before Jane McQuain's body was found, according to the search warrant. The driver of McQuain's car was a woman who police say was found with Lopez at the motel last week. The woman, identified as 24-year-old Pleshette Marie Caldwell, told police she was driving her boyfriend's mother's car and that the mother's name was Jane. The account on the cell phone number she provided belongs to Lopez, the police said.
No phone listing for Caldwell could immediately be found.
William McQuain was a 6th grade student who friends say had a cheerful personality and loved sports, animals and video games. One friend, 16-year-old Ryan Wolverton, said he befriended William after their mothers became friendly. He said William looked up to him like an older brother, and that he had hoped William would be found in a special hiding place he had.
"Me and William stayed up all night. About 4 or 5 in the morning we went outside. We were just sitting there talking," Wolverton said. "William was just telling me he had this secret place with his friends, and only they knew it. And it was really close to the woods."
Wolverton said he didn't know much about Lopez, but that "William thought the world of Curtis."
In Montgomery County, the police chief said the boy's body is believed to have been at that location in the wooded area since October 1. Security video shows Lopez and the boy going in and out of a Germantown storage facility two times that morning, and McQuain's clothing from that day matches what was found on Tuesday, Manger said. Police were still investigating where the boy was killed.
Lopez had served more than a dozen years in prison in Pennsylvania before being paroled in 2000, records show. Jane McQuain stayed married to him during that time, and Lopez had in recent years tried to be a factor in McQuain's life, even requesting that William call him "dad," said Ronald McCombs, McQuain's former boyfriend. But he said McQuain had resisted any effort to get close to Lopez and had devoted herself to William.
McCombs has said McQuain told him several weeks ago that she feared for her safety and was concerned Lopez, who police say had been seen loitering around the condominium in recent weeks and moving boxes from inside her home to her car, might harm her. He said Tuesday he had assumed William would not be found alive.
"He did not deserve it. Nobody deserves to get murdered - nobody," McCombs said.
"It's a big hole in my life right now," he added.
He said he was hoping to come to court if Lopez ever goes to trial so that he can see the jury cry at photographs of the child.