DOWNE TOWNSHIP - A former Millville High School football star reported missing from Woodbine three weeks ago was found dead Thursday in a quarry lake about 15 miles from his home.
State Police said Khalil Wallace, 19, was found in a wooded lake off Dragston Road at a former sand and gravel mining operation. Police confirmed his identity using fingerprints and said his death is being investigated as a homicide.
Wallace, the father of an 8-month-old girl, was a standout player for Millville High School before his 2010 graduation.
He then moved to Rowan University, playing wide receiver for the Profs. He earned Offensive Rookie of the Week honors in the New Jersey Athletic Conference for a two-touchdown performance Nov. 6, 2010.
But after his freshman season ended, Wallace left the team without explanation to his coaches.
"We saw him a couple times after last season, but he just kind of disappeared. We reached out and tried to stay in touch," coach Jay Accorsi said. "I know he was trying to get off campus. He had a lot of things going on. He was going to be a new father."
Wallace also faced some legal trouble. He was awaiting trial on drug-distribution charges in Woodbine. He was released from the Cape May County jail on $50,000 bail on Sept. 2 - about three weeks before he was last seen in Woodbine.
Wallace stopped by the Woodbine Dollar Plus store for chips Sept. 20, when he asked his step-grandfather to take home his bicycle. He then got into a van that was later reported stolen and found torched in Philadelphia.
Police also recovered his cellular telephone in Philadelphia.
Wallace's disappearance prompted a two-state search. Relatives and friends posted fliers in Philadelphia, Millville and Woodbine. State Police used dogs and helicopters to scour the woods around Woodbine.
That search ended on a thickly wooded quarry property around a manmade lake in Downe Township.
Investigators continued to search the property for evidence Friday. Six unmarked black sport utility vehicles were parked on the tall-grass berm of Dragston Road across from a fallow field, along with a marked police utility van.
Police would not let passersby approach the woods where they were working, and State Police declined to release further details about their investigation Friday.
In Woodbine, friends and family were shocked by the news of Wallace's death.
Millville High School classmate Chrystal Santiago, at the home of Wallace's mother Friday, said Wallace's family was not prepared to talk about the tragedy.
"We appreciate everything that everyone has done to help find Khalil," Santiago said. "We thank everyone for their prayers."
John Weldon, a youth coach in Woodbine, had a son who grew up with Wallace.
"He was a naturally gifted athlete," Weldon said. "He loved his mom and his sisters and his little baby. He took great pride in being a father."
Woodbine has had its share of violent crime over the years, Weldon said - but the homicide was unspeakably horrible.
"You might have little fights here and there. But abduction and murder? No way," he said.
Rowan's coach said Wallace had a bright future and the motivation to succeed.
"He had that twinkle in his eye. You knew he had big things ahead of him," Accorsi said.
Wallace had talked about a career in law enforcement or teaching, he said. On the football field, he was a good blocker, a rare talent among wide receivers, Accorsi said.
"He was such a gifted young man who had a lot to offer. It's a very sad and very tragic time for us here," Accorsi said.
Woodbine resident Alan Toney, who followed Wallace's football career, said the homicide is especially tragic for a blue-collar town such as Woodbine.
"It's the hardest thing for people to understand," said Toney, vice commander of the American Legion Post in Woodbine. "He could have gone all the way. He really was that good."
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