EL PASO, Texas - Employees at the Apache Generating Station near Cochise, Arizona, discovered human remains identified as 21-year-old Devon Lee Ward of California, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office said.
The remains, identified Monday, were found June 27 on one of three coal rotary plows that are part of the coal elevating and delivery system, officials said.
Ward, a private stationed at Fort Bliss, was listed as being absent without leave in early June 2016.
Deputies reportedly recovered partial skeletal bones and body parts that were in the advanced stages of decomposition. Investigators said it appeared the body may have been in a coal train car prior to the coal being dumped into the coal chute at the power plant.
ABC-7 Reporter Evan Folan spoke with the soldier's mother earlier this year. Maureen Ward told ABC-7 her son suffered from Aspergers, a "high-functioning" form of autism.
"I just want to be able to hear my son's voice and have him say 'I love you mom," the mother said at the time.
Maureen shared a video testimonial her son put together for a church. In it, the soldier explained the challenges he faced growing up. "I am different than everyone else around me. I look different and sound different, and because of that, people have picked on me and made fun of me," Devon Lee Ward said, "I want to be accepted like everyone else."