McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A McAllen man looking to enter the legal marijuana growing industry travelled to California in 2013. Nearly 10 years later, he remains missing in what investigators believe is more than a missing person’s case.

Neal Forrest King moved to Butte County, California, to venture into the new, fast-growing business of legal marijuana. According to King’s mother, Gayle Cunningham King, he struggled in school with attention-deficit disorder and wanted to try a new business venture.

“He decided he wanted to go out and do that, and you know, he was 21, so I couldn’t, I could just hope that he would come back,” she said.

After three years in California, King told his mother that he was beginning to wrap things up, she said.

“So, I started feeling like OK, things are going to change and he’s going to be home,” she said.

King would not make it back to McAllen.

Neal King went missing in Chico, California

On a cold March morning in 2013, the 24-year-old vanished in an area featured in the Netflix documentary series “Murder Mountain.”

Three days after going missing, King’s mother received a call from his girlfriend. He had still not been reported missing.

“I said call the police, call them right now,” she said. “She said, ‘Well, you know I don’t have a car,’ and I just said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said you don’t need a car. I said call, get your phone and call the police right now.”

Gayle told Neal’s older brother to fly out to Sacramento immediately, and the search for her missing son began.

King’s family made contact with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, who believe the case may be more sinister.

“Based on evidence located, detectives opined Neal’s disappearance was likely the result of foul play,” the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The search included use of bloodhounds from New Mexico, and authorities said the investigation has been “very extensive.” The sheriff’s office would later change the status of his case from a missing person to a homicide.

King went missing after going to a business meeting to sell property with a man named Donald Cheatham Jr., who authorities believe was the last person to see King alive.

“I think my son went with Don Cheatham,” King’s mother said. “That’s my opinion, and went back to that property on Olive Grove that he was going to sell to Cheatham. I think that’s where my son went and disappeared from there.”

King’s truck was found parked outside of Cheatham’s house, with his belongings inside. Cheatham claimed that King asked him to drive to a desolate area and drop him off. King’s mother finds that hard to believe.

“I know my son,” she said. “My son would never go in somebody’s truck somewhere and get dropped off on a highway in the middle of nowhere.”

There was an arrest warrant for Cheatham on felony counts of cultivating and possessing marijuana, as well as possession of a stolen revolver. He surrendered to authorities in 2013, but was freed after several months in jail.

While the search continued in California, members of the McAllen community offered their help to the King family. According to Gayle, longtime friends started a GoFundMe page, and others helped put up posters and billboards. Some volunteers from the community even organized a search effort.

Gayle also launched a Facebook Page that has gained support from thousands of followers across the United States. The page remains open.

In 2019, Cheatham was killed in a gun fight in Oregon during an altercation. The lone person of interest in the case was now dead.

On Nov. 22, a judge approved Gayle’s request to have her son declared legally dead.

Next March will mark the 10-year anniversary of King’s disappearance, and those with information are asked to call the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.