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Worker finds woman's body in Ridgeway field
Henry County Sheriffâ€™s investigators study the scene where a womanâ€™s body was discovered Thursday in a field beside Old Mill Road in Ridgeway. Shown are (from left) Anson Shively, Cpl. Steve Raines, Mark Winn and Greg Lowery. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Friday, July 9, 2010
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Police are investigating the death of an adult woman, whose remains were found in the Ridgeway area early Thursday, as a homicide.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said workers with a tree service were driving a piece of equipment near the intersection of Old Leaksville and Old Mills roads when a worker noticed something.
"He immediately stopped" and found a woman's body in tall grass in a field not far from the edge of the road, Perry said. The worker called 911 around 8:15 a.m.
The body was found on Old Mill Road, about a quarter of a mile from the intersection with Old Leaksville Road.
Authorities did not immediately know if the woman died there or elsewhere, Perry said. The cause of death also was not immediately known, but police are treating it as a homicide.
"The manner in which the body was discarded would make it suspicious," he said.
According to a news release from the sheriff's office, the woman was white. Perry declined to provide additional details about the victim, including an approximate age and what she was wearing.
Jerry Cochran, an area general foreman with Asplundh Tree Experts, said a two-man crew with the company was in the area to trim around an Appalachian Power Co. transmission line when one of the men saw the body.
"The way it was laid there, it looked like a deer carcass," said Cochran, who went to the scene after receiving a call from the crew. "That's what they thought it was."�
Cochran, who declined to name the workers, said one of them was operating a Sky Trim tree trimmer. When he got out of the equipment, he realized the body was human, Cochran said.
The machine operator called 911 and a supervisor to report what happened, Cochran said. The two men stayed about 10 or 15 feet back and waited for authorities to arrive, he added.
Afterward, "they was pretty much in shock, but not real bad," Cochran said. "They were tore up a little bit."�
Police told the men to leave their equipment there to avoid disturbing the scene, Cochran said.
Perry said authorities are working with the Eden Police Department, the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office and other agencies in areas close to the state line on the investigation.
"I don't know for certain" if Rockingham authorities have any reports of missing persons that might fit the woman's description, Perry said.
A recent release from the Eden Police Department, however, stated a 23-year-old woman was reported missing July 5. She last was seen near Morehead High School at a fireworks show on July 4.
When last seen, she was wearing a yellow sun dress and a pair of jean shorts. Her family felt the woman might be in danger, the release said.
Eden Police Chief Reece Pyrtle declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
The area where the body was found is rural. What appears to be an electric substation is in sight of the remains, but there are few houses nearby.
Perry estimated the remains had been in the field "probably a couple of days."�
He said that was only a guess because "we are unsure at this time what happens to a body" in hot temperatures such as those the area has seen during the past few days.
Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, is a forensic entomologist who has worked with Ohio authorities in the past to use his knowledge of insects to help pinpoint a person's time of death. He spoke in general terms Thursday afternoon about the decomposition process.
According to Keiper, high temperatures have a significant effect on decomposition.
"The hotter it is, the faster" insects work to break down tissue, whether it is animal or human, he said. "Temperature is critical."�
Wednesday's high reached 100, and Thursday's was 99 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Investigators dressed in haz-mat suits and wearing self-contained breathing packs similar to those worn by firefighters processed the area where the body was found Thursday.
The Bassett Fire Department loaned investigators a ladder truck so officials could take aerial pictures of the scene and surrounding area, Perry said.
Authorities also spent several hours scouring areas adjacent to the remains and other parts of the field, Perry said.
The remains will be sent to the Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy, Perry said.
Perry is asking anyone who was in the area or driving by Old Mill or Old Leaksville roads and "saw a vehicle or any unusual activity in the area to please call" the Henry County Sheriff's Office at 638-8751 or Crime Stoppers at 63-CRIME (632-7463).
Rewards of up to $1,000 are available through Crime Stoppers for information related to unsolved crimes. The amount of any reward is determined by the nature of the crime and the substance of information provided.