Sheriff: Bones found in state park still unidentified

Bones were found Jan. 3 in a state park off U.S. 127 near Coldwater Creek in Celina, Ohio

MERCER COUNTY, Ohio (WANE) Deep analysis into human bones found in a western Ohio state park in early January have determined they unequivocally belonged to a man, but it remains unclear just who that 20-35-year-old man was when he was killed.

Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said Thursday in a scheduled press conference that a team at the University of North Texas was able to pull full nuclear and mitochondrial DNA profiles from the skeletal remains found around 2:45 in the afternoon Jan. 3 along a tree line in a state park off U.S. 127 near Coldwater Creek in Celina, Ohio. Those DNA descriptions have confirmed the victim in the long-studied case was a man, Grey said.

Grey said as much two weeks after the bones were found, when he detailed how a forensic analysis of the bones in Montgomery County, Ohio found that the victim was a 25-30-year-old man, 5-feet-7 to 6-feet-11 tall, left exposed there for as many as 12 months. A race was not determined then and Grey said Thursday that one has still not been determined.

Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey addresses the media on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey addresses the media on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016.

Still, though, Grey said Thursday that the results of the study at North Texas and by the state of Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have been loaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System database as well as the National DNA Index System.

“At this point, we don’t have a match,” Grey said matter-of-factly on Thursday.

In April, Grey said a search of missing persons in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee through the National Missing and Unidentified Person System found six people who match those characteristics. Thursday, though, Grey said each of those people have been ruled out as a possible victim as each have been located.

Grey said his detectives have extended that search by sending “computer messages” through a law enforcement network to agencies along S.R. 127, from Michigan to Tennessee, where the highway turns into U.S. 27 and continues south through Georgia and Florida. The message asked those agencies to make known their missing persons, and pass along information on unidentified skeletal remains.

The sheriff said because the area of S.R. 127 where the bones were found is rather inconspicuous, with a place to pull off and a tree line to pull in, it’s likely the victim was not killed there but rather dumped there. Grey said “definitive” evidence found at the scene supported that speculation, and he insisted his detectives are working a homicide. He would not detail what that evidence was.

Now, Grey said he’ll continue to work to learn who the victim was.

Investigators look into the discovery of human bones near Celina, Ohio, on Jan. 3, 2016.
Investigators look into the discovery of human bones near Celina, Ohio, on Jan. 3, 2016.

Grey said his office has logged 28 tips from the public, and is still openly investigating 12.

Grey said he’s working to find a lab that can extract phenotypic DNA from the remains, which would provide ancestral information about the victim. Detectives have reached out to ancestry.com, but the genealogical website uses saliva to run its DNA matches. Grey said officials at the company are working to help, still.

“We need to know the race and we need to know the ancestry,” said Grey. “This is somebody’s child and quite possibly this is somebody’s father and we need to find them.”

Grey asked for the public’s help. Anyone with any tips can reach out to the sheriff’s office through email at www.mercercountysheriff.org or call its tip line (567) 890-TIPS (8477) or the detectives at (419) 586-1450. Grey said his office is dedicated to solving the case.

“I still have my fingers crossed and my hopes up that we’re going to get a DNA hit on the computer system,” said Grey. “I don’t like having unsolved deaths in this county.

“This case if difficult for me because there’s a family out there. We owe it to that person to do the best we can and we owe it to their family to do the best we can do give them closure, even if it’s not the closure they want.”

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