Possible cause of death established for remains found in woods
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2016
All of the remains found in a wooded area off of Sycamore Road and George Mitchell Road have been collected and taken to the Mississippi Examiner’s Officer for DNA testing to confirm the identity of the deceased.
Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Marc Ogden said a large amount of skeletal remains were recovered from the area along with some clothing and a wallet. While the wallet contained identification, law enforcement officials are waiting until DNA evidence conclusively identifies the deceased to release the name. Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said it could take a couple of weeks to get those results back.
While the identity has not been released a tentative cause of death has been determined. Turnage said based on the evidence found at the scene, and after speaking with investigators of the sheriff’s department and medical examiner’s office, the unofficial cause of death is self inflicted hanging.
Law enforcement officials became aware that remains were in the area in August when a black Labrador that lives at a home nearby brought home a human skull. Attempts to locate the remains at that time were unsuccessful.
The remains were found Monday after that same Labrador brought home a femur, allegedly from the same remains. Turnage said DNA testing will also confirm whether the remains found in the woods and those brought home by the dog are from the same person to ensure there is not another undiscovered body.
After Monday’s discovery, a 3-year-old bloodhound owned by Pine Grove Fire Chief Steve Seal along with members of the Pearl River County Joint Search and Rescue Team assisted in the search. That team consisted of Pearl River Emergency Management Director Danny Manley, John Albert Mitchell, Patricia Seal and Jake Smith.
Seal said the dog, affectionately named Bo, was able to track the location of human remains by the scent left by the dog that originally found the bones and brought them home.
Seal did this by asking the officials to tie an article of clothing on the Labrador for about an hour and let the bloodhound use that scent to track a path through the woods. As the dog traced the scent, the team followed behind searching a wide area of the woods for the remains.
Seal felt he and the team got lucky because the longer a scent is in the woods, the harder it is to track.
“We really didn’t know when the dog found the bone, it could have been (Sunday) night,” Seal said.
This was the fifth time Bo found a missing person or object he was sent in the woods to locate. One recent instance in July of this year involved a person becoming separated from his brother in the woods in the Pine Grove Community. That man was found alive.
Seal trained Bo himself, using his children as methods to lay scent tracks in the woods in Pearl River County. But he attributed the success of Monday’s search to the teamwork of the sheriff’s department, emergency management, and the members of JSAR.