The body of a former Washington State University basketball player has been found in central Brazil, two weeks after he was reported missing, police said Monday.
Police spokesman Norton Luiz said by telephone that police found the body of Tony Harris in a dense thicket on Sunday after an anonymous tip.
The body was “slumped against a tree in an Army training ground and with the shoelace of one of his sneakers wrapped around his neck,” Luiz said. “We believe he may have committed suicide because it appears the body fell from one of the tree’s branches, although we are not ruling out homicide.”
Harris, who was recently lost a U.S. job and whose wife is pregnant with their first child, arrived in Brazil only three days before missing a Nov. 4 game for his new team, Universo of Brasilia, the country’s capital.
Witnesses say he took a long-distance taxi trip that day, but jumped out of the cab at a gas station in the small town of Formosa, “leaving behind his laptop and clothes,” the town police chief, Pedromar Augusto de Souza, said by telephone.
On Nov.7, the owner of a luncheonette saw Harris walking past the gas station, Souza said.
“As far as we know, no one saw him alive after that,” he added.
Luiz said that the state of the body indicates that Harris died about five days before he was found near Formosa.
Luiz said Harris’ father-in-law and a family friend had arrived in Goiania, capital of Goias state, to make a positive identification of the body, which should be flown back to the United States in a few days for burial.
Harris debuted on Nov. 1 for Universo and Ricardo Oliveira, a team director, said he played on Nov. 3 in a South American club championship game against Argentina’s Penarol in Brasilia.
“When he failed to show up for practice the next day for a game against Argentina’s Boca Juniors, I went to his hotel and discovered he had disappeared,” Oliveira said.
Another team director, Jorge Bastos, said that some of players said “Harris appeared to be nervous and overly anxious about something. But he never said what was bothering him.”
Harris, who would have turned 37 on Sunday, was a leader of the 1994 WSU team that made it to the East Regionals of the NCAA tournament. Harris averaged 12.4 points and 4.3 rebounds a game in two seasons at WSU. Before that, he was on state championship teams at Garfield High School in Seattle.
After college, Harris played for teams in Russia, Venezuela, Greece, Brazil and Cyprus.
He returned to Seattle and recently worked as a counselor at Echo Glen, a juvenile rehabilitation facility. But that job ended when he was not hired permanently in February, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
The player’s wife told The Seattle Times last week that her husband sounded anxious in his first phone call to her after arriving in Brazil.
Lori Harris, who is expected to give birth in December, said that the last time Harris played in Brazil, “he didn’t leave on good terms.”
“He heard that his old coach said some things that were not true, (things) that could put him at risk.”
She told the newspaper her husband couldn’t leave because the team was holding his passport, so he planned to stay with a friend in northern Brazil and wait for a replacement.
Oliviera said the team had needed the passport in order to register Harris for the Nov. 4 game and for a visa to work in Brazil. He said it planned to return it to him within days.
Lori Harris said she last heard from her husband about two weeks ago when he borrowed a taxi driver’s cell phone to call her as he was on the way to visit a friend.
He told her he loved her and would talk to her later, she told the Times.
Harris also had a 14-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship.