Spearman Man is reported Missing; Extended Family members file missing person’s report

by Suzanne Bellsnyder

A divine encounter between a Hansford County resident and an extended family member has resulted in the opening of a missing person’s report for a Spearman man who disappeared this, Summer. Tanja and Danny Watts, who are the grandparents of Yancy Lee Watts, filed a missing person’s report with the Spearman police department on January 30, 2024, seven months after their grandson was reported missing and they have hired a private investigator to assist in the case.

According to Facebook posts and our interviews, the extended family, who do not live in Hansford County, were not aware that Yancy has been missing.

The Twenty-one-year-old Watts reportedly went missing from his home in Spearman on June 26, 2023, according to information provided by local law enforcement and confirmed by friends and individuals for whom Yancy worked.

Yancy’s employer and friends became concerned about him after he didn’t show up for work or respond to texts for several days and they reported his disappearance to both the Spearman police department and the Hansford County Sheriff’s office.

Based on their conversations with local law enforcement, the reporting parties believed that a notice of a missing person had been issued at the time they went to law enforcement. We have been unable confirm the exact nature of the communications reported to have been sent out by the Hansford County Sheriff’s office.

According to sources, they were in contact with Deputy Sheriff Richard Lesly who told them that he would issue a BOLO, which is police term that means “be on the lookout”. A BOLO is an instruction to law enforcement agents, the media, and the public to watch for a suspect or criminal. We cannot find any evidence of a BOLO being issued by the Sheriff’s office and have not been provided with such a document per our specific request to the Sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Mahaffee’s response to our detailed request via email was the following “Both incidents were handled by the Spearman Police Department” and “I will get back to you with the dates the teletype was sent” indicating that some type of law enforcement notice was sent but that they had referred the case to the Spearman police. We have not been provided with the promised “teletype” at the time of printing.

Chief Ortiz told us in a phone interview that the Spearman police department sent out an officer to do a welfare check at Watts apartment after the case had been reported to them and that they did not pursue an investigation as a missing person’s case because it was “more of an endangered person situation”.

Reports by individuals who entered Watts apartment indicated that there were disturbing details that Yancy was not mentally well. According to multiple sources, Watts had been suffering from mental health issues and had, as recently as March, been found to be a danger to himself.

Ortiz told us that those disturbing details did not rise to the level of concern that would require an investigation and restated that their only action was to conduct the welfare check. We are told photos of the apartment were taken and given to the police department, but we are unaware of what other evidence might have been collected, if any, since this was not considered an investigation by Spearman PD.

Ortiz did tell us that despite there not being an open investigation or a missing person’s report, they have continued to look for Watts as a person of interest.

Around the same time as Yancy’s disappearance, on Saturday, June 24th, a vehicle which had been reported as stolen was recovered in Lakin, Kansas, approximately 130 miles straight North of Spearman, Texas. The incident report for this case shows that the stolen vehicle was owned by Mark Murry, who had employed Watts, connecting the case to the young man’s disappearance.

Lakin is in Kearny County, and Sheriff David Horner told us they “found a vehicle abandoned on US Hwy 50 on June 24, 2023. No persons were seen in or near the vehicle” and that “no person fitting that [Yancy’s] description was ever contacted by my office.” He went on to say, “Lakin is a small community and an individual as described would be quite noticeable”.

The stolen vehicle was found on Saturday, two days before Yancy was discovered to be missing on Monday.

According to Murray, the vehicle was released to him by the Kearny County Sheriff’s office and was never searched for evidence by the Spearman police department, despite the connection to the Watts case. Ortiz told us, and Murray confirmed, there is now an open investigation on the vehicle.

Chief Ortiz with the Spearman police department issued the following statement on the two cases.

“Family members have filed a missing endangered person report after expressed concerns for the safety of Yancy Lee Watts. The family has reported Yancy suffering from a major depressive disorder with a long history of threats and attempts of self-harm. Yancy has on several occasions walked miles away from his home without giving any notice. On several of these occasions, Yancy has been located by law enforcement walking alongside the roadway without carrying any identification, funds, food, or water.

Due to Yancy’s history and a prior ongoing investigation, there is reason to believe a possible last known location may have been around Kearny County, Kansas outside the city of Lakin, KS. Yancy is identified as 21 years of age, 5’10”, 165 lbs., thin build, light complexion, blonde hair, and blue eyes.

Yancy has been entered into the national law enforcement data base, National Crime Information Center (NCIC), as a missing endangered person. If anyone has information that can help in locating Yancy, please contact the Spearman Police Department or your local authorities.”

This is a developing story that we will be following. If you have any information about the case of Yancy Watts, please connect with us or report that information to local law enforcement.