PEARLAND, Texas – A Pearland student is facing murder charges in the death of an 18-year-old classmate who went missing Tuesday afternoon.
Police said Hermilo Vildo Moralez, 19, was identified as a person of interest in the disappearance of Josh Wilkerson Tuesday after officers noticed Moralez loitering in the area of Wilkerson’s abandoned vehicle.
Wilkerson was last seen at his high school, Pearland ISD’s PACE Center, around noon on Tuesday. His parents reported him missing after finding his car abandoned at a shopping center in the 5000 block of W. Broadway.
Police said they found Wilkerson’s shoes and backpack in a dumpster near his vehicle.
When they initially questioned Moralez at the shopping center, investigators said he falsely identified himself and refused to give his address.
According to court documents, Moralez told them he knew Wilkerson from school, and he’d seen him earlier that day.
Once his true identity was discovered, Moralez was taken into custody and charged with failure to identify himself.
Investigators, along with dozens of volunteers and members of Texas EquuSearch, launched a search effort for Wilkerson Tuesday afternoon.
As their investigation progressed, police said Moralez agreed to cooperate with search-and-rescue activities.
While walking with detectives through a field Wednesday afternoon, investigators said Moralez, who was handcuffed at the time, tried to pull a detective’s weapon from his holster.
Moralez was immediately restrained and returned to the city jail.
He was then charged with attempting to take a weapon from a peace officer.
Wilkerson’s body was found in a field near FM 518 and FM 521 around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
According to court documents, Moralez told investigators that Wilkerson had given him a ride home from school Tuesday and made a pass at him.
Moralez said he pushed Wilkerson off, and the two began to fight near the back patio of his father’s home.
Moralez told police that during the fight, he grabbed a wooden rod and hit Wilkerson with it several times.
He said when he got up off the ground, Wilkerson didn’t move.
Investigators said Moralez then partially burned the body before dumping it in the field.
When police found Wilkerson’s body, they noted that the teen’s hands and feet were bound, according to court documents.
Investigators said they went back to the scene of the crime and found a large amount of blood on the patio and a bloody wooden rod in a nearby field.
Moralez was charged with murder Thursday and was being held without bond.
He is also awaiting trial on an unrelated harassment charge.