2014-11-12 / Front Page

Human remains found in woods

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer


Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigators along with the coroner’s office spent several hours combing a wooded area off Lemuels Road after a surveyor stumbled upon several bones believed to be hidden. It’s believed the bones had been there for years. An anthropologist is being brought to the scene Wednesday to scientifically excavate any remains. In this photo, Sheriff Steve Mueller emerges from the scene, located about 200 to 300 feet from the roadway. 
(Ledger photo / TIM GULLA) Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigators along with the coroner’s office spent several hours combing a wooded area off Lemuels Road after a surveyor stumbled upon several bones believed to be hidden. It’s believed the bones had been there for years. An anthropologist is being brought to the scene Wednesday to scientifically excavate any remains. In this photo, Sheriff Steve Mueller emerges from the scene, located about 200 to 300 feet from the roadway. (Ledger photo / TIM GULLA) A timber surveyor’s chance find of human bones Tuesday morning led to a long, cold night for Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies as investigators looked to solve a 206-piece jigsaw puzzle while missing 203 of the pieces.

The discovery occurred in a thick patch of woods owned by Cherokee County off Lemuels Road and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the scene at approximately 10:45 a.m. The Cherokee County Coroner’s Office was dispatched about a half-hour later.

Sheriff Steve Mueller confirmed three bones believed to be human were discovered by the timber surveyor although both he and Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler were unable to say Tuesday afternoon exactly how long the bones had been there.

“I think it’s been a long time already,” Fowler said.

Crime scene analysts, detectives, deputies and Fowler spent several hours in the densely vegetated area looking for additional clues and information but the operation was temporarily suspended Tuesday afternoon until Fowler could bring in additional expertise. Nothing was removed from the scene Tuesday.

“I have employed the services of a doctor of anthropology out of Greenville who will assist us in the morning to excavate the remains,” Fowler said.

While they couldn’t release too much information yet, Mueller said it’s hoped that additional bones will be uncovered, particularly a skull or teeth.

“If we can find something we can compare to dental records, it would be very helpful in the investigation,” Mueller said.

Investigators will be combing through cold cases both locally and in neighboring areas to see if any matches can be made.

While it was unclear if a crime had been committed, investigators are treating the scene as a crime scene. To preserve the scene and any evidence until the excavation is completed, the sheriff’s office was keeping a deputy at the scene and making arrangements Tuesday afternoon to set up a tent near the scene so deputies could guard the scene overnight.

Fowler said the anthropologist who will be coming to the scene Wednesday has consulted with other coroners’ offices across South Carolina.

“Once the excavation is complete, the bones will be taken to a laboratory for analysis,” Fowler said. “We will use a number of scientific methods in an effort to identify the subject and determine an approximate date of death and if there were any traumatic injuries on the body.”

The discovery was by pure chance as the surveyor was taking a measurement of the timber on the county-owned parcel.

If the surveyor had not spotted it, several officials said, the bones would have remained hidden.

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