CELINA — Experts who examined bones and other evidence from a site at Grand Lake St. Marys have determined at least some of the bones were human.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey made the announcement at a news conference Friday and said it is now a homicide investigation.
Grey said bones and other evidence collected were transported to the Montgomery County Coroner’s office on Tuesday. At that office, detectives met with Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist from Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. An autopsy determined some of the bones to be human. Some were animal.
That study shows the remains are from one victim, a man age 20 to 35. His height could have ranged from 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 1 inch.
“It appears that the bones were exposed to the elements for less than six months,” Grey said. “So we are putting it sometime in 2015 that the body was placed there.”
After the autopsy, some of the bones were taken to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab in London, Ohio, for analysis and extraction of DNA evidence. The DNA sample will be compared to the FBI’s criminal justice database. The bones then will be sent to the University of North Texas for further examination by specialists to try to collect more information. Grey estimated that examination would take approximately six months. That information will then be compared to a national database for missing people.
Grey wouldn’t comment on details like how many bones or what types were found because of the investigation. However, he said other evidence at the scene indicates the possibility of foul play.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point,” Grey said, “but we do have places to start. Moving forward, this will be treated as a homicide.”
At about 2:43 p.m. Jan. 3, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from someone who had been walking in a popular fishing area about a mile south of Celina off U.S. 127. The caller reported finding bones believed to be human.
Grey said law enforcement officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Sheriff’s Office and the Mercer County coroner responded. He said the area is known for illegal dumping, so investigators originally thought it may be a deer carcass. However, some of the bones raised suspicion.
The bones were collected by the ODNR, and Grey said one of the deputies from the Sheriff’s Office took one of the bones for analysis at the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. Doctors analyzing the bone at that office said there was a high probability that it was a human bone. Grey said the area was then secured as a possible crime scene while investigators continued their study. The crime scene was closed Jan. 12.
Grey said they are taking the investigation very seriously.
“We are not looking at it as just discovering some bones,” Grey said. “This is someone’s family member. Someone out there does not know where their family member is. If anything, we can help someone get some closure.”
Grey said there is no one reported missing in Mercer County. The sheriff’s office plans to reach out to adjacent counties first and then spread the search from there.
“If anyone has a family member missing, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement,” Grey said.
Grey said the office has received a few calls on missing people but would not release details.
Those with information should call 419-586-7724. To leave an anonymous tip, call 567-890-8477.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at [email protected]