On the morning of June 12, 2018, Wesley Billingsly was seen driving his Ford Expedition around Pacific Beach, honking and waving at friends as he passed by. However, after failing to show up for dinner with friends later that evening, Wesley was never seen again.
Although it has been nearly three years since Wesley’s disappearance, his mother Christel Billingsly has never given up hope nor stopped searching for her son. “We always had contact,” Christel told me in a recent interview. “So when his phone went off and the social media stopped and none of his friends knew where he was and nobody heard from him [. . .] I called the police department down in San Diego and I said ‘I can’t find my son, I haven’t heard from my son— my gut tells me that something horrible has happened.’”
According to Christel, her assertions that Wesley was genuinely missing were initially rebuffed by authorities. “They told me, ‘well, he could’ve gone off the grid, he’s a young kid and he graduated college so maybe he took a break because everybody has a right to a mental break,’” Christel recounted. “And I said, ‘yeah, but he’s my kid.’” Finally, after several days passed and there appeared to be no sign of Wesley around Pacific Beach, the police got involved.
“About a week later, a detective finally called and asked if I would come down [to San Diego from Sacramento] and give a DNA sample and get a group of people together to start posting fliers,” Wesley’s mother said. “I contacted two news stations and got them to meet me at the Vons parking lot because I knew that he had gotten gas there and the Vons lady knew him. I did everything. I covered every telephone pole and tree in those fliers.”
Two months after his disappearance, Wesley’s Black Ford Expedition was found near the border of San Diego and Mexico. “They found his car parked in San Isidro, but it wasn’t any place that you could walk across the border easily,” Christel revealed. “It’s surrounded by horse ranches, it’s woodsy, and you’d have to go over a huge mountain to reach Tijuana. His truck was found on a dirt road surrounded by horse farms. It seemed to me that it was just driven as far away from Pacific Beach that you could go without crossing into Mexico— it’s the last exit before you get to the border and you’re told that you’re leaving the United States.”
Despite keeping close contact with his mother, Wesley didn’t tell Christel that the weeks leading up to his disappearance were particularly stressful for him. “I thought that everything was great because that’s what Wesley was telling me,” Christel said. “I think it goes back to me being a single mom. It was me and my three [boys] and we were a team. The kids always wanted me to be happy and not worry and they would take care of anything.”
“When I talked to him he was doing wonderful— you know, life was grand. But after he went missing, I found out that he had lost his job, everything wasn’t grand, he was having a hard time coming up with the money to pay rent,” Christel continued. “I found out that he was asked to leave the apartment because he couldn’t pay his rent. So on June 1, I’m told that he packed up his stuff in his great big Ford truck and was staying at different friends’ houses.”
When authorities found Wesley’s abandoned truck, his personal belongings were still in the vehicle. “All of his clothes were in there,” Wesley’s mother explained. “His books, his Pokemon cards, his cards and letters from me, his journals— everything.” Yet, when no leads came out of the discovery and the case began to quiet down, Christel persevered and kept looking for Wesley.
“I went [to San Diego in 2018] when he first went missing, I went for his 25th birthday, I went for my birthday in October and then I was contacted by one lady who said her brother went missing and they found him in Mexico,” Christel outlined. “She said that in Mexico back then, there were all kinds of people going missing and that there were all kinds of John Doe’s. Mexico used to share John Doe’s if they looked like they were American through the consulate, but they stopped doing that once Trump became president. So she said that the only way they found her brother was by going to the morgue in Mexico and looking through these books of John Doe’s.”
So, in November of 2018, Christel visited Mexico with her brother. “We visited the different morgues and we looked at the books. It was horrible because there were just pages and pages of photos of dead people,” she explained. “They only gave me the books for the time Wesley went missing on June 12, 2018 to November 2018 and we probably looked at 1,200 John Doe’s. But none of them were Wesley. So, it was an experience that I would never wish on anyone but I had to be satisfied that we checked. We also went to the police department and met with detectives with a translator and filed a missing person’s report with the Mexican government.”
In order to continually raise awareness of Wesley’s case, Christel has adopted a strategic plan for using social media. “Every month I post on Facebook— I try to write a heartfelt story of how I’m feeling right now about my son and how I miss him and I try to post pictures with that and it gets shared,” Christel told me. “I have done a podcast, I’ve had other people ask if they can make little videos and share them on TikTok. It’s getting out to more people, but part of this whole nightmare is that you have to wait.”
Regardless of her enduring efforts to find her son over the last 34 months, no new information has been found in Wesley’s case. “In my heart, I don’t know if Wesley is still alive but I don’t know if Wesley is not still alive,” Christel said. “Wesley was very energetic and outgoing and fun and like a butterfly flitting about. He was drawn to people and people were drawn to him [. . . and] all arrows point in my gut to there being no way in the world he would stay away from his family for almost three years and not talk to us or contact us.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Christel was visiting San Diego at least once a month. However, due to increased travel restrictions over the last year, Christel hasn’t been down south to search for her son since June 2020. “Some days I feel strong, some days I feel weak— but even if you feel weak you have to keep moving,” she told me. “You can’t stop. I have to get up and I have to live my life and love Wesley and remember him and I have to hope and pray that this ends well.”
For monthly updates on Wesley’s case, you can follow Christel’s Facebook page “Help Find Wesley Billingsly.” If you or anyone you know has information on Wesley Billingsly’s whereabouts, please contact the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000 or SDPD Missing Persons Unit at (619) 531-2277. There is currently a $10,000 reward for any tips that might aid in finding Wesley, who is now 26 years old.