Straight-A Student Disappears During Finals

Matthew Wilson, described by family and friends as a diligent computer science major, owed four Rice University professors four exams by the close of the academic semester Wednesday evening.

Wilson never turned in the work, and now, police are considering that the 20-year-old Rice junior who went missing nearly a week ago may have met with foul play.

"We've been checking the health care facilities, mental health facilities, the morgue," said Rice University Police Chief Bill Taylor, who said there have been some tips, but they have all proved fruitless. "We've found nothing."

Authorities were holding out hope that the shaggy haired, bearded student, last seen Saturday, Dec. 15, would emerge from some academic cubby hole and his focus on acing his finals would explain his temporary disappearance.

"Often students will go into seclusion to complete papers and study for final exams, but that apparently was not the case here," the Rice University Police Department wrote in a release intended to elevate the profile of the missing person's case around the Houston campus.

Wilson's roommate at an apartment near campus, identified in the Houston Chronicle as history major Elliott Harwell, first noticed that Wilson was missing Sunday, according to Rice police. Harwell last saw Wilson Saturday around noon when Wilson was working on one of his finals inside his room. Harwell, also busy with his own work, reportedly left the apartment and did not return to the apartment until Sunday. Tuesday, he filed a report with the Rice police.

Police later learned that Wilson had failed to drive a friend to the airport Saturday night as promised.

Missing along with Wilson were his car, a silver Neon and a backpack, Taylor said. His phone, however, had been left in his room.

Cathy Wilson, Matthew's mother, told the Chronicle that her straight-A student son withdrew $400 Friday, Dec. 14, the day before his disappearance. Police would not confirm that information but said they are working on gainiing access to Wilson's credit card information.

Wilson's mother initially speculated that the money may be used to cover his share of December's rent, but Harwell told her that they had already paid for December and had not discussed any splitting up of the month's bills.

B.J. Almond, a spokesman for the 5,000-student university, said that the staff has blanketed the campus with fliers about Wilson's disappearance. Almond said that Wilson is "definitely in good academic standing."

Taylor took that character description a step further, adding that, according to Wilson's acquaintances, he doesn't participate in high-risk behavior often associated with the college student lifestyle. "He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke," Taylor said. "He drives a conservative vehicle ... and usually walks to and from campus."

There is no indication that Wilson had suicidal intentions or that he had any contentious relationships of note, Taylor said.

"All this combined, it's behavior that's out of place," he said, "and of course, that has us even more concerned."

Taylor said that it's the first missing person case involving a Rice student in more than a decade. In the last case, he said, the student who took off was found safe a few days later.

Wilson has red hair and green eyes and wears glasses. He is described by police 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing 135 pounds.