Just this week in Colorado, a hunter found the remains of a man killed in the crash of an all-terrain vehicle. Another Colorado hunting party discovered the remains of a northern Michigan man missing since 2003. A coroner says the hunters found the remains of Ray Wiggs, III of Alanson, Michigan. The 19-year-old and a friend traveled to Colorado in October of 2003 for a camping trip.
Outdoorsmen are an integral part of law enforcement, regularly finding human remains in areas killers hoped would keep secrets. But what is remote in August may be well-trodden in November; what was leaf-covered will reveal what’s behind. Someone leaving the city for the quiet of autumn woods may find more than serenity or a six-point buck. He may find a crime scene.
Authorities welcome the discoveries. They want sportsmen to report their findings, even if there is some doubt the bones are human. “If you’ve never seen skeletal remains, you may assume it’s some kind of animal and not follow through with a call,” said Master Sgt. James Morissey of the Illinois State Police.
Some times the discovery is of one of their own. Boise County Sheriff’s officials hope a hunter’s discovery of human remains in the Badger Creek drainage last week will help solve the 5-year-old mystery of what happened to hunter Russell Reed. The 28-year-old Reed last was seen Nov. 9, 2002, when he was separated from his two elk hunting partners in the Foothills near Twin Springs in southeastern Boise County.
During the first week of this month, investigators in Madison County, Virginia began the hunt for clues after two hunters discovered human skeletal remains. Investigators recovered the remains, which were located in a wooded area where they also found clothes and shoes. The remains were sent to the Medical Examiner’s office in Fairfax.
No one keeps statistics on human remains found by hunters. But this month alone, the following gruesome discoveries have been made by hunters:
- A deer hunter in Rhode Island found a woman’s body.
- A hunter in Oklahoma found a man’s body.
- A deer hunter came across human remains in northwestern Minnesota .The remains are believed to be of a person who died two to five years ago. Authorities said the person died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and foul play was not suspected.
- Human remains were discovered by two hunters Sunday just north of the town of Paragon, Indiana. Investigators aren’t sure how long the bones were there, how they got there or whether they belong to a male or female.
Earlier in October, outside Lebanon, Ohio, a hunter discovered a car in a dry creek bed and the nearby remains of two women who had vanished six months earlier while on a shopping trip. The women lived at an Ohio retirement home.
In an area such as greater St. Louis — with both a high incidence of murder and an abundance of sportsmen — worlds will collide. Deer and small-game hunters, fishermen — even a mushroom gatherer — have found human remains in recent years in the St. Louis area. When George Whitter, missing and presumed slain, could not be found an investigator suggested the mystery would have to fall to the recreationists.
“We might have to wait until hunting season begins,” Jefferson County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Marshak told a reporter. Five days later, a rabbit hunter in West Alton did indeed find bones that are believed to be Whitter’s. The 35-year-old was last seen Aug. 30, leaving a bar in south St. Louis County with his friend Randy Greenman.
In a macabre twist to the story: On Sept. 22, a hunter found the remains of Greenman — murdered, police would say — near a road in a subdivision under construction.
In a similar strange twist of fate, during January 2006, Jason Mathenia and a friend went scavenging for deer antlers — or “shed hunting” — near the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in Brooklyn, Illinois. They found the skeleton of a young woman. She has never been identified. Authorities said she was small, maybe 18 to 25, possibly of Hispanic descent. There was a colostomy bag nearby.
Nine months later, Mathenia saw news coverage of a body found by three hunters on Chouteau Island. It was that of Jaime Garcia, 27, of St. Louis, fatally stabbed. He reeled – just the day before he had been bow-hunting and was certain that he had been standing just a few feet from where Garcia’s body was found.