For three days, the family of Anthony A. Belton Jr. feverishly searched and agonized over the whereabouts of the 24-year-old father.
After reading Saturday about a fourth victim who had died in a horrific crash Friday at 23rd Street and Television Place in Kansas City, the family worried it was Belton, missing since the day before.
But repeated phone calls to several local hospitals turned up nothing, and phones at the Kansas City Police Department's traffic investigations unit went unanswered. A nighttime visit to police headquarters also was unfruitful.
It would not be until Monday that police contacted Belton's family. He was, as feared, killed in the crash, a high-profile tragedy that was publicized by local news organizations and on social media for days. The Dodge Avenger he was riding in was T-boned by a Jeep fleeing Independence police.
Belton, a Kansas City resident, was rushed to Research Medical Center, where he later died.
Police said they were unable to immediately notify relatives because Belton was not carrying any identification.
But his family wants to know why police did not let the public know they had a crash victim they were unable to identify.
"Where the hell is police?" Donna Belton, the victim's aunt, asked Wednesday, the day police released his name. "They should have took the initiative to go on the radio or the TV and say we have ... a victim from this accident that is not identified and call this number."
During the weekends, the phones in the traffic unit are not staffed, said Sgt. Bill Mahoney, a supervisor in the traffic unit.
"We had no identification and therefore no way to notify them," Mahoney said. "He had no prints on file, he had no ID with him, the surviving driver said he was friends with one of the other occupants so he didn’t know him, and the hospital likewise had no luck."
Mahoney said he came into the traffic unit office on Sunday, his day off, to work on trying to identify Belton, "but there was no ID or paperwork in the car, so in short there were just no leads to follow."
Police learned on Monday that the Belton family was inquiring about a missing person, and they immediately set up an identification.
"I came into work at (3 p.m.) and called his sister right away," Mahoney said. "I can understand their frustration, but I’m not sure what we could have done differently."
On the rare occasions authorities cannot identify a victim, police have requested the public's help.
For example, Kansas City police asked the public to help identify a 2016 homicide victim by describing her height and weight, what she was wearing and the fact she had several tattoos. Two days later, police were able to publicly release her name.
Donna Belton said a protocol should be in place for identifying victims like Anthony Belton who do not have identification on them.
"It is ridiculous because — something’s not right. Something’s not organized," she said. "Something needs to be done.
"What I went through this week and this weekend, I don’t want any family to go through that."
Donna Belton said she and other relatives rushed to Research Medical Center after finally learning that Anthony Belton had been taken there, and family was able to identify him.
"I said, 'Oh, my God,'" Belton said. "It took us three days to find him. There was no communication."
Prosecutors have charged Victoria M. Brown with three counts of second-degree murder and resisting a lawful stop in Friday's fatal wreck. Bond was set at $250,000. No court date has been scheduled.
Anthony Belton, whom relatives called "Little Tony," was the seventh of eight children. Growing up in Kansas City, Belton graduated from Northeast High School in 2013. He dabbled in basketball.
Since graduation, Anthony Belton had worked odd jobs with relatives. Belton was planning to celebrate his daughter's first birthday on Thursday.
"Once his daughter was born — his life wasn’t over; it was just beginning, because he had a daughter," his aunt said.