Missing Pearland teen found dead

PEARLAND, TX Detectives say around 6:30pm Wednesday, an acquaintance-turned-suspect led them to 18-year-old Joshua Wilkerson's body, which was near FM 521 and FM 518.

Detectives wouldn't release more information about the circumstances surrounding his death, but noted they're investigating the case as a homicide.

"The discovery of Joshua's body only ends the search, not the investigation," Pearland Police Department Lt. Onesimo Lopez said in a prepared statement. "The Pearland Police Department is committed to thoroughly investigating this crime and holding those responsible accountable."

Earlier Wednesday, police mentioned they were questioning an acquaintance they called a person of interest, but it's not clear whether that acquaintance is the 19-year-old suspect who led police to Wilkerson's body.

So far, detectives say no charges have been filed in this case.

The search for Wilkerson started early Wednesday morning after no one had seen or heard from him since he left school around noon Tuesday. His parents said they located his vehicle in a strip center parking lot at 5000 W. Broadway.

Police spent nearly 25 hours searching for him and had set up a command center had been set up at a nearby middle school. Texas Equusearch also was called in at around 5am Wednesday; SkyEye HD then flew over the scene as volunteers on ATVs searched for the Pearland teenager. Pearland police even posted information about the search on its Facebook page, which got flooded with comments, praying for Wilkerson's safe return.

By Wednesday afternoon, the search intensified. Volunteers fanned out across a wooded area off Bailey Road between Veterans Drive and McLean in Pearland.

Pearland police already had suspected Wilkerson may have been injured after the acquaintance they were questioning hinted the 18-year-old may have been in trouble.

"The information that we have right now indicates that he's been injured. He's been assaulted and may need medical attention," Lopez said during an interview on Wednesday afternoon. "It's actually very unusual. We don't often have cases like this. It's an 18-year-old adult who had his own vehicle and to be missing under these circumstances is unusual."

Wilkerson's classmates at the Pace Institute, an alternative school for dropouts, had nothing but good things to say about the 18-year-old during interviews with Eyewitness News on Wednesday afternoon.

"I didn't even know," said Emilie Peters, a friend of Wilkerson. "The whole school is upset. Everybody's really upset about it because Joshua - no one hated him. He was a nice kid and everybody loved him. I mean, I don't even know what went on."

"He's a good kid, always came to school, said he was trying to find a good job. He was gonna graduate pretty soon," said James Nanez, another classmate.

We're continuing to follow this story and will have the latest for you on Eyewitness News and abc13.com.

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