March 16, 2007
03/16/07: Dustin Willis, 26, Boston, MA
Willis was chatting on the phone with his girlfriend, Shawna Watkins, about 11 p.m. and became separated from his friends. According to Boston Police Department Detective Sgt. Kevin Finn, "When his friends came around the corner, they didn't see Mr. Willis. They assumed that he might have gone into one of the nightclubs. They began looking into the nightclubs to see if they could see him. They didn't see him. One of his crewmembers called his cell phone, left a message that they were heading back to the ship and to contact the ship."
The solider's cell phone was found on a sidewalk near the Long Wharf about 1 a.m. According to Finn, "There was no indication of any altercations between him and the individuals he was out with or any individuals he may have encountered on the street."
Watkins told WCBTV it simply didn't make sense, "This is not something he decided to do," she said. "He did not just drop his cell phone and walk off in a blizzard."
Desertion also didn't seem to be a possibility. WCBTV reported that Lieutenant Paul Brawley, a Navy spokesman said Willis had a spotless record and just that last week was honored by the Navy with an achievement medal for superior performance.
Willis served as a 3rd class petty officer aboard the Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, which was docked in South Boston over the St. Patrick's Day weekend. The ship began making final preparations to leave without the solider the Wednesday after he disappeared.
"This ship has a crew of 300 people, and it is really a family. Everyone knows one another. They are upset about this, but they are also remaining focused on their job and making sure that the ship operates and needs to do what it needs to do," Brawley told WCBTV.
Dustin Willis found
On Wednesday, March 21, 2007, the body of Dustin Willis was found in the Boston Harbor shortly after 1 p.m. It was found in 22 feet of water at the end of the Long Wharf, just yards from the sidewalk where his cell phone was recovered. There was no immediate indication of foul play.
Officials said that they believe that Willis became confused in the driving snow on Friday night, but stressed that the official determination would be make by the medical examiner.
Willis family and crewmates are said to be devastated by the news.
Willis was from Hatteras, NC and based out of Norfolk, VA.
at 11:47 AM