Four days after he was reported missing by family members and a city watch issued, the body of 78-year-old Willie Burnett, Sr., was found in a South Memphis field Monday morning.
He was the father of Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge Betty Thomas Moore.
Police said at around 7:45 a.m. they received a call from a MLGW employee who advised that he had located a vehicle that matched the description of the type of vehicle Mr. Burnett was last seen operating. Police dispatched officers, air support and a canine unit to search for the missing elderly man.
Upon reaching a 2004 black GMC Sierra pick up truck that was stuck in a ditch at Gill and Peebles, officers soon located Mr. Burnett several hundred yards away from the truck in a field. He was unresponsive and pronounced deceased by first responders, police said.
When they issued a missing persons report, family members said Mr. Burnett had been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's and they were concerned for his safety. At the time of his disappearance family said he could have been traveling to Oxford, Miss.
"I just think my dad got completely confused, completely turned about and sat down at the fence and went home to be with his two sons that he lost some years ago and his folks," said Judge Moore, daughter.
Grief stricken, Judge Moore walked up from where her 78-year-old father's body was located.
"We had assumed that daddy was in some of his old places and we actually, the family, has been driving around but we never would've guessed that he would end up on this MLGW facility over on a back fence where we found him," Judge Moore said.
For the last three years her father has suffered with dementia and Alzheimer's.
"My dad had 10 kids and he worked two or three jobs to take care of us ... and of course when this disease hit it is so devastating for any family," she said.
When Mr. Burnett left the house on Friday, Feb. 22, he was heading to a trucking company where he worked at for more than 35 years, Judge Moore told FOX13 News. The trucking company is near where his pick up truck was found.
"It hurts, it hurts, it hurts and it just hurts," said Thomas Alston, one of Mr. Burnett's former coworkers.
By all appearances Mr. Burnett was a good provider, good friend and loving father Who apparently succumbed to a devastating disease.
"We just thank God that we have this closure," Judge Moore said. "We wouldn't have wanted to have it this way, but we still thank God for our dad."
A cause of death has yet to be determined but police say there were no obvious signs of foul play.
FOX13 News reporter Darcy Thomas contributed to this report.
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