In December 2020, it was widely reported that Christopher Allen Whiteley was killed by a mountain lion in Hood County – a rural area southwest of Fort Worth.
Whiteley was found dead in a wooded area near his girlfriend’s house. He was on his way to work on the morning of Dec. 2. After he failed to show up for work, a friend filed a missing person’s report. Whiteley’s body was found the next day.
Reports that Whiteley was killed by a mountain lion emerged just days after his death. But wildlife officials refuted those claims, saying that the evidence at the scene doesn’t support a mountain lion attack. So, why did law enforcement say that Whiteley was killed by a big cat?
“There’s a lot of speculation that people had mountain lion on the brain. There was a mountain lion spotted outside of Dallas in Rowlett just about two weeks before this happened in Hood County. Other than that, nobody’s really sure,” said Morgan O’Hanlon, who wrote about the case for Texas Monthly.
In Texas, a justice of the peace determines cause of death. It’s then up to law enforcement to decide whether to investigate further.
In Whiteley’s case, that hasn’t happened. The Hood County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t closed the case for good, but it’s not actively investigating it either.
Officials from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department couldn’t find evidence of a mountain lion attack at the scene, or on Whiteley’s body.
“It takes a few minutes for [a mountain lion’s] prey to go down, and there would be a lot of disturbance there. In addition, there was a lot of inconsistency with what you would expect to find in the wounds. … A mountain lion will usually leave distinctive teeth marks,” O’Hanlon said.
There is some evidence to suggest that a dog could have attacked Whiteley, but not enough to be conclusive. Investigators found another set of footprints in addition to Whiteley’s at the scene, but it’s unclear whether they are connected to his death.
“Those footprints very well could have been made by a neighboring landowner. However, there was no indication that the sheriff’s office went and asked those landowners if they’d been out there recently,” O’Hanlon said.
The uncertainty surrounding Whiteley’s death hangs over his family. His mother, Kimberly Spruill, told O’Hanlon that it’s been hard to find peace since her son died.
“This is the way I look at it,” Spruill said. “I have to let God have it. God knows what happened out there. I may never know here on this Earth.”