Missing Rice University Student May Have Changed Identity

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 11:35:00 AM

Literature and notes on how to assume a new identity were found in the car, abandoned on a Berkeley street, of missing Rice University student Matthew Wilson, Berkeley police said last week. 

Police found the material in Wilson’s 2004 silver Dodge Neon on the 1200 block of Allston Way in West Berkeley on June 10. The car was locked and covered in dust and there was no evidence of any foul play to indicate any criminal activity. 

Wilson, a computer science junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, was last seen working in his room by his roommate Elliot Harwell on Dec. 14. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the items in the car included a book on how to live cheaply in San Francisco, a can of beans, rice and instant noodle soup along with a couple of days' worth of clothing. 

Frankel said fingerprints indicated that the property belonged to Wilson. 

Although the car is no longer being treated as evidence, Berkeley police are still investigating Wilson’s disappearance as a missing persons case to assist Rice University officials, Frankel said. 

“But it’s a Rice University missing persons case,” he said. 

Frankel said although Wilson’s car was found in Berkeley, police were not sure if he had been in the area at all. 

“We don’t know for a fact he was in the Bay Area to begin with,” he said. “There could be a million different scenarios. He could have sold his car to someone, and maybe that’s how it turned up here.” 

Frankel added that police were following local leads on Wilson’s possible whereabouts. 

“I would say finding the material constitutes progress,” he said. 

Wilson, who is from Haworth, Okla., reportedly made a $400 cash withdrawal from his bank account on Dec. 14, the day he was last seen, and purchased charcoal, matches, a car cover and window shades. 

Wilson’s family, Rice University and Crime Stoppers of Berkeley are offering $25,000 in reward money for information on Wilson’s disappearance or his whereabouts.