MONROE COUNTY, Ind. — To get to Richardson Road in rural Monroe County, you need to turn off East South Shore Drive, just past the Porthole Inn on Lake Lemon, take the gravel path under the railroad trestle and up the hill past where the creek sometimes runs over the road to find the place where a turkey hunter discovered a set of skeletal remains at the bottom of a ravine in the woods one morning in May of 2004.
”It’s a remote location and people would not travel it unless they knew it,” said Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain. ”I think the person was just thrown there off the roadside and tumbled to the bottom and remained there unburied and the turkey hunter was just waiting there for the sunrise and realized there were skeletal remains close by.”
Swain was a sheriff’s detective back then and recalls the care and thoroughness of forensic investigators as they cordoned off the area and recovered the remains with no form of ID or clothing nearby.
Eventually, Swain said deputies came up with a sketch of the dead man’s face and then had an artist take a 3-D approach to the investigation.
”Facial reconstruction done forensically with the skull through the Illinois State Police and the actual clay reconstruction later on.”
For years the man’s identity remained a mystery.
They knew he was big, about 6’4” and 200 pounds.
A detective, through process of elimination, began looking at unsolved missing persons reports from the early 2000s and came across the description of a Louisville man who was reported missing in Indianapolis in the fall of 2003, about the time the body in the woods on Richardson Road was dumped.
”The detective looking at the case took the initiative to see if he might create any leads,” said Swain, “took the initiative with this one potential match, thought it might be the best likely match and reached out to the family of Mr. Gabbard and obtained a DNA sample.”
Through DNA testing, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department detectives have identified the body of Steven Gabbard, who was 38 or 39 years old at the time of his disappearance, and last seen riding a blue Harley Davidson motorcycle when he left for Indianapolis.
”He came up missing and some law enforcement agencies felt he met with some foul play at a location in Indianapolis,” said Swain. ”It’s been determined to be a homicide through a gunshot wound.”
Swain hopes that a “non-local law enforcement agency” will now take over the investigation to determine what happened to Steven Gabbard after he left Louisville on his Harley to “visit” Indianapolis in 2003 only to wind up with a gunshot wound to the head dumped at the bottom of a ravine in a woods near Lake Lemon that is so far off the beaten path that someone would have to know how to get there and get out without being seen.