News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 11, 2014

Hunt for clues on Wabash continues

Dogs lead search for evidence tied to body found in river

TERRE HAUTE — Two specially trained canines combed near railroad trestles, bridges and possible access points along the Wabash River on Wednesday looking for a potential homicide crime scene.

“The cadaver dogs have the ability to locate human tissues and traces of blood which can perhaps help determine a crime scene,” said Clark Cottom, chief deputy of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

Rick Stanifer, one of the dog handlers with the Vigo County Regional Response Team, said the dogs are trained to find human remains only. The dogs can locate human remains even after rains. If any blood is found, samples can be taken for potential DNA matching, Cottom said.

It was the next step in a homicide investigation involving a body recovered the river on Sunday.

Two boats were used to search for potential access points along the river in a 21⁄2-mile section, extending about a mile north of Fairbanks Park and to the south, about half a mile south of the Interstate 70 bridges, where police discovered the body.

Authorities had train traffic shut down over the Wabash River from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Cottom said, to allow searches across two train trestles. Then, bridges and bridge landings were searched, with the dogs placed on boats to gain access from the river.

“Right now we are not ruling out any possibilities. It either occurred at a remote location and the body was transferred to the river [or] it could have also occurred along the river’s edge somewhere,” Cottom said.

Or the victim could have been dropped from a vehicle on a bridge into the river, he said.

“If this crime occurred at a remote location, there had to be a vehicle involved. We are not looking for a specific vehicle,” he said. “If it was along the river bank, there didn’t have to be a vehicle involved.”

Because an autopsy ruled the death a homicide “time is of the essence, Cottom said. “We have to identify the individual and also have to keep in mind that he has a family too, who needs to be notified that their loved one is missing and now deceased. One of our primary concerns is there is an individual who has committed this crime, a very dangerous type of individual who committed this crime, and we have to bring that person to justice,” Cottom said.

Cottom said evidence sent to Indianapolis for lab tests “is still being reviewed.” The method of the victim’s death has not been revealed by police.

Police describe the victim as a white male about 5-feet-6 to 5-feet-8 inches tall and between 140 and 170 pounds. His age is 35 to 55 years old. An autopsy Monday morning revealed that within the past seven years the man had suffered a broken right femur (thigh bone) that would have required medical treatment. There were no visible tattoos on the man’s arms, torso or legs. No identification was found on the body.

The autopsy revealed that the man had been in the water for a few days before being found.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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