Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said some newly discovered information has led to a reinvigorated search for remains of a man reported missing more than 15 years ago.
Joshua Leon Middleton of Mt. Judea was 20 when he went missing in late January 2005, just a day after 56-year-old Charles Daniel House was found dead. A Mount Judea school bus driver found House slumped over in his car on Mt. Hersey Road. He had been shot to death.
Officials had said House and Middleton were friends, but it was unclear whether Middleton was with House when House was killed.
Rickey Freeman, now 50, of Mt. Judea was arrested on varied charges in Harrison that same day. Then Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape said authorities believe Freeman was the last person seen with House. Freeman’s house in Newton County burned shortly thereafter.
Freeman was ultimately charged with capital murder in the shooting death of 27-year-old Shannon Ray Middleton outside his house in Mt. Judea in December 2005. Testimony in a pre-trial hearing indicated Freeman, armed with a shotgun, had gone to talk to Shannon Middleton regarding Freeman’s house burning, but Shannon Middleton was also armed and was shot to death. Freeman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was still serving prison time Tuesday with a parole eligibility date of Oct. 23, 2021, records show.
Josh Middleton has not been seen since he went missing. Authorities had received numerous reports of sightings of Josh and went to other states to other states to chase those leads, but Slape said there had never been any truth behind any of those sightings.
In December 2007, Slape told the Daily Times that criminal investigators developed information leading them to believe Josh Middleton had actually been killed and the investigation turned toward homicide.
In March 2010, a multi-agency task force began digging up property previously near Mt. Judea, reportedly looking for human remains and stolen property. Property was recovered, but no remains were unearthed.
Current Sheriff Wheeler said Tuesday that yet more information had been received recently that might indicate a location for Josh Middleton’s remains.
He said his department has been given potential leads and investigators are following up on them, focused largely in the eastern portion of Newton County.
“We do not have solid information,” Wheeler said, “but we do have potential leads.”