Couple who found missing man remains denied reward


Shortly after finding a skull that ended a several-months long search for Michael Teller, Lester and Theresa Morgan applied for the reward that was offered.

The reward, which was offered by the Final Authority Investigative Services Group, was for $1500, which would go to anyone who had information that led to finding Teller.

Teller had left his home north of Sawmill on Dec. 10, 2015, and had never been seen since. Family members, as well as law enforcement offices for the Navajo Nation and Apache and McKinley counties had search for months without any success.

It wasn’t until Sept. 14, 2016, that the Morgans, looking for wood on the White Clay Road, found a human skull that solved the mystery of what happened to Teller.

Family members said that they later learned that he went on the road during a snowstorm and his truck got stuck in a rut and apparently he tried to walk home and died from exposure.

It’s a narrow road that isn’t used much by people in the area. The only ones who use it are people like the Morgans to look for wood.

Theresa Morgan actually found the skull and after showing it to her father and both realizing that the skull was human, they immediately left the area.

“We didn’t even pick up the wood,” said Lester Morgan.

When they got home, they called 911 and a Navajo police officer came within 30 minutes. Once they showed the officer where the skull was located, the officer bagged it and sent it to Phoenix to a medical examiner.

The Morgans soon learned that what they found was part of Teller’s remains and since there was a reward out for finding him, they called the 877 number to collect it.

Lester Morgan said he was told that he would not get the reward because he had called the police first. In order to get the reward, they were told, they had to call the 877 number first.

This didn’t make any sense, Lester Morgan said. He and his daughter found Teller’s remains and they deserved to get the reward.

For the next few days, they phoned around to see if they could convince anyone to give them the award. They even went to DNA Legal Services but were told that the agency doesn’t handle cases like that.

They were told, however, to file a small claims case against the company that was offering the reward and they did this twice without any success because the company refused to accept service, Lester Morgan said.

Finally, they were told by family court officials that if they wanted the company to be served, they would have to hire a process server, which would cost them $600.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” Lester Morgan said.

There have also been attempts, the Morgans said, to see if Teller’s family would pay the reward but that didn’t go anywhere.

Lester Morgan said he didn’t know what he could do now. He said he knows that he and his daughter deserve to get the reward. It was posted in the newspaper and on flyers so both feel they have been ripped off.

As for the Teller family, they recently received Michael Teller’s remains and are now planning to hold a funeral to bring closure. The funeral is now tentatively scheduled for April 29 but the family is planning to hold a meeting in the next few days.

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About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.