Remains found at Hueston Woods: Mothers of missing locals say they never will give up searching

Michael McKenney was reported missing in 2020.

Human remains found just outside of Hueston Woods State Park in Preble County could be those of a man Fairfield Twp. Police say has been missing for more than two years.

Michael Allen McKenney was reported missing in June 2020, according to police. He was last seen May 22, 2022. Fairfield Twp. Police conducted an investigation into the whereabouts of the then-28-year-old.

Private and public entities had conducted searches in and around the state park over the past two years after McKenney’s car was found in the parking lot just days after he went missing.

On Wednesday, search teams from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Christian Aid Ministries nonprofit group searched some areas that had not been checked previously around Hueston Woods, according to Fairfield Twp. Police Sgt. Brandon McCroskey.

The remains were located in a remote area on a farm about a mile from where McKenney’s car was found, he said.

“There was some evidence found there that would strongly suggest that it is him, but of course we will await DNA and other confirmation,” McCroskey said. He said officers are not currently looking for anyone else, such as suspects, related to the case. It will be up to a coroner to determine the cause and manner of death.

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The Preble County Coroner’s Office has taken possession of the remains and an autopsy will be performed at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

McKenney’s mother, Yalonda Middleton told the Journal-News in past interviews that she would never stop searching for her son. She hired a private investigator and had online fundraisers to raise money for a reward.

“She (Middleton) was holding on to hope he was alive,” McCroskey said. “Our hope is obviously that the family get some comfort especially right before the holidays ... they will have him home.”

On Thursday Middleton told the Journal-News, “To anyone that has a missing loved one, never give up.”

News of the discovery of human remains in the area hit home for a Hamilton mother, Debbie Winkler Estes, who has been searching for her son nearly 12 years.

William “Billy” DiSilvestro, 28, vanished without a trace and despite multiple searches in several locations and tips, he has not been found.

It was bitter cold during the early morning hours of Feb. 7, 2011, when DiSilvestro, known to friends as “Billy D,” left a Rossville neighborhood house after a party and was never seen again. He left his phone at a friend’s house and had no money.

“At this point, I just want my son. I don’t care what happened. Who did what. I don’t care about about that, I just want my kid,” Estes said last year on the 11th anniversary of her son’s disappearance.

The case remains open and is being investigated by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

Estes said emotions came welling up Wednesday, bringing out tears, but she knows it may be the beginning of some answers for the McKenney’s family.

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“My heart is so full of emotions, it is a good thing to find him, but in all it is all bad ... sad ... brings reality to this nightmare they have been living,” Estes said. “I hope for some kind of peace and closure, and maybe finding out what might happened will ease them in some way.”