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Body found two days after pickup discovered in pond; suicide suspected

A missing Wichita man whose truck was found Monday night in a pond near Marion Reservoir was found dead Wednesday morning by Sedgwick County deputies with cadaver dogs.

The body of 38-year-old James Lightfoot was found at 10:35 a.m. Wednesday. The Marion County sheriff's office did not release information about the discovery until Thursday afternoon and did not specify where the body was discovered.

The Record later Thursday learned from coroner Don Hodson that Lightfoot, a parolee, died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Lightfoot’s pickup truck was found Monday 20 to 30 feet into a pond southeast of 240th and Kanza Rds., just west of Marion Reservoir.

A 5½-hour search, including infrared observation from a Kansas Highway Patrol plane Monday night, failed to find the man.

His 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 was reported by a caller to be in the pond at 5:07 p.m.

Deputy Landis Goodman reported the water was halfway up the tires.

Goodman apparently called a phone number associated with the truck’s license plate, and a Sedgwick County officer contacted Goodman with questions at 7:09 p.m.

Goodman checked whether the owner of the truck was wanted but found out he was not.

At 10:27 p.m. Monday, Kansas Highway Patrol sent an airplane equipped with infrared imaging to search for the driver.

Troopers saw only wildlife but noted that they could not see into some wooded areas nearby the pond. Monitored transmissions appear to indicate that no search of those areas was performed at the time.

“The keys were not in the truck,” Undersheriff Larry Starkey said Tuesday. “He more than likely had someone come pick him up.”

Wichita Police Captain Aaron Moses said his department had issued an attempt to locate for Lightfoot, who had not been seen or heard from since June 19.

Lightfoot, 5 foot 11 and weighing 250 pounds, had short brown hair, blue eyes, and a beard.

Police were asking earlier this week that anyone with information regarding his location and well-being call 911.

Marion County Sheriff Jeff Soyez issued a news release at 3:02 p.m. Thursday, stating that Marion County officers had contacted the Sedgwick County cadaver team Tuesday. Marion and Sedgwick County authorities did not mention this when interviewed about the case on Tuesday.

The team’s search began at 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to Soyez’s release, and at 10:35 a.m., one of the dogs led searchers to human remains.

According to Soyez’s release more than 24 hours later, the remains were identified as Lightfoot’s, and there were no signs of foul play.

Soyez stated in his release that no further information would be revealed at this time.

According to court records, Lightfoot had an extensive criminal record dating to 2004, mainly drug possession, distribution, and manufacturing cases in Dickinson, Harvey, and Riley Counties with additional convictions for fleeing police, burglary, theft, and other charges. He was imprisoned three times, most recently being released on parole March 30, 2023.

Last modified June 28, 2024

 

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