Investigators, scientists hope to identify human remains found in Wayne County farm field

HAGERSTOWN, Ind - Wayne County authorities hope a forensic autopsy will answer questions about human remains found in a Hagerstown farm field Monday afternoon.

A combine operator found the skeletal remains while harvesting the field, in the 15,000 of Turnpike Road just before 2 p.m. Monday.

“Well he first thought it was a deer,” said the farm owner, Dan Goar.  “And then he looked closer and realized it was a human.”

“It’s kind of disturbing,” Goar said.  “It’s too bad it had to happen.”

Wayne County Coroner Ron Stevens called in a forensic anthropology team from the University of Indianapolis to help collect and preserve evidence throughout and surrounding the discovery site.  The group of experts could be seen Tuesday using specialized tools to sift through soil while marking points of evidence in the field.

“They’re going over this very minutely, inch by inch, on the ground and the area surrounding the remains,” Stevens said.  “And the remains themselves.”

“Any death investigation we respond to, we consider a crime scene until we prove otherwise,” said Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa.  “We are hoping that with their expertise, along with the forensics we’ll be able to have done, that will help us make a positive identification on the individual.”

“We’re hoping to find anything that can help us identify the victim,” Stevens said.  “If necessary they will gather any, if there’s any organic evidence remaining, or bone marrow, something like that.”

An Indiana State Police Evidence Technician was also on the scene.  Stevens said it’s possible the team will recover DNA evidence that matches existing records.  If a tentative identification is made, he said new DNA samples can be collected for comparison.

“Sometimes we’ll approach the family and see if we can gather another form of DNA like a hairbrush or toothbrush, something like that,” Stevens said.

Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Cappa said the remains had been gathered from the site and were being transported to the Forensic Medical Center in Montgomery County, Ohio for a forensic autopsy.

In the meantime, Cappa said detectives were reviewing active missing person cases in the area.

“We want to make sure that, number one, we do not miss anything as far as collection of evidence,” Cappa said.  “The other thing is when you talk about integrity of that scene, we want to make sure if this would be a criminal case, that we are going things the way they should be done so we have a successful prosecution.”