COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA — Larry Eli Murillo-Moncada’s parents never knew what happened to their son after he fled their Council Bluffs, Iowa, home during the Thanksgiving holiday a decade ago. On Monday, they got some closure.
Council Bluffs police said a body discovered Jan. 24 wedged between a wall and cooler at a vacant No Frills Supermarket was that of Murillo-Moncada, who worked at the supermarket at the time of his disappearance. Authorities believe he had climbed on top of the cooler, which was used for storage, then fell about 12 feet and became trapped in the 18-inch gap between the wall and cooler.
It’s unclear how long the 25-year-old man survived in the gap before he died, but the store remained open for another seven years before it was shuttered in 2016. His body was discovered six months ago by a contract firm that was removing shelves and coolers from the vacant store building, according to a Council Bluffs police news release.
Police said the lengthy period of decomposition made it difficult for them to determine the age, gender and cause of death of the person. After an autopsy, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Criminalistics Laboratory was able to make a positive identification after analyzing DNA collected from Murillo-Moncada’s biological parents
Council Bluffs Police Sgt. Brandon Danielson, who had worked the nearly decade-old missing persons case, told the Des Moines Register the cooler units are “so loud, there’s probably no way anyone heard him” cry for help.
Some former shoppers at the supermarket have said on social media that they could smell something terrible when they were inside the store. One person commenting on the Council Bluffs Nonpareil’s Facebook page reported the store “always had a weird smell to it.”
Another person said the store “smelled horrible … for a long time” and wondered if the stench was coming from the area at the back of the store where meat was cut.
Others questioned why the store managers never investigate the source of the smell.
Murillo-Moncada may have had a psychotic break the day he disappeared. His mother, Ana Moncado told the Nonpareil that her son worked his shift at the supermarket on Thanksgiving night 2009 and was disoriented when he returned home the following morning, Nov. 27. She took him to a doctor, who prescribed anti-depressant medication, the newspaper reported.
Her son’s condition worsened Saturday, Nov. 28, when he began hallucinating.
“He was hearing voices that said ‘eat sugar,’ ” Maria Stockton, a friend who served as a translator for his mother, told the Nonpareil. “He felt his heart was beating too hard and thought if he ate sugar, his heart would not beat so hard.
“He said somebody was following him, and he was scared,” she said.
Murillo-Moncado ran from the house after an argument with his parents and never returned, Stockton said.
His family questioned his acquaintances and posted flyers at places he frequented, but they never saw him again.
“It was a snowstorm at the time,” Danielson told the Des Moines Register. “He left with no shoes, no socks, no keys and no car.”
Police said there were no signs of trauma to Murillo-Moncado’s body, and his death has been ruled an accident.