- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Harvard molecular biologist Don Wiley was last seen leaving a banquet in Memphis just before midnight on Nov. 15. His rental car was found a few hours later, abandoned on a Mississippi River bridge with the keys in the ignition and the tank full of gas.
His family did not believe he committed suicide, and police said there was no evidence that the 57-year-old married father of four with no known financial or domestic problems was kidnapped or killed.
But the disappearance in this time of war and anthrax attacks has attracted the attention of the FBI. Mr. Wiley was a researcher on how the human immune system fought off infections and recently had investigated such dangerous viruses as AIDS, Ebola, herpes and influenza.
Investigators are reviewing all possibilities to what might have happened, from Mr. Wiley's jumping from the bridge to his being a target of some kind of terrorist-backed kidnapping because of his research.
"Right now, nothing is pointing at anything, except he is missing," police Lt. Walter Norris said Tuesday.
Mr. Wiley's wife, Katrin Valgeirsdottir, said "suicide is everybody's first reaction," but she doesn't believe her husband would have killed himself.
She said "there is no connection to terrorist activity. None."
Mr. Wiley is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics in Harvard University's molecular and cellular biology department. He and another Harvard professor, Jack Strominger, have won honors for their work on how the human immune system works, including the Japan Prize two years ago.
Professors at Harvard and board members at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital announced Tuesday that they we offering a $10,000 reward for any information that would help find Mr. Wiley.
Mr. Wiley was in Memphis to attend a two-day annual meeting of the hospital's scientific advisory board, on which he had served for about 10 years.
Dr. William Evans, the hospital's deputy director, said Mr. Wiley seemed "in a great frame of mind" and was looking forward to time with his family when he left a Nov. 15 dinner at the Peabody Hotel about midnight.
Four hours later, police found Mr. Wiley's abandoned Mitsubishi Galant a few miles from the hotel, in a lane of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge that rose 100 feet above the Mississippi River between Memphis and Arkansas.
Lt. Norris said police have no clues as to Mr. Wiley's whereabouts during those four hours. He said patrol boats and helicopters have been checking the river, but divers wouldn't be helpful because the current is too swift.
Police Inspector Jerry King said there was nothing to support theories that Mr. Wiley was a victim of a crime or he disappeared because of a domestic or financial situation. Investigators have been dusting the rental car for fingerprints and performing other tests, but nothing has turned up so far.
William Woerner of the FBI's office in Memphis said the agency was not conducting an investigation into Mr. Wiley's disappearance.
He said the agency was interested in the case because Mr. Wiley was a prominent scientist but there was no evidence the disappearance was related to his profession.
FBI spokesman George Bolds said the FBI will assist Memphis police if needed, but the disappearance is a missing persons case for now.


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