Skeletal remains discovered in Wood County believed to be same person
BY MIKE WARREN
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Skeletal remains found over three days of searching are believed to have been in the water for more than one year, and they are all believed to be from the same person. That’s what Wood County Sheriff Shawn Becker told City Times during a Thursday afternoon interview.
“We have found more skeletal remains,” Sheriff Becker said. “We believe they are from the same person. We’re continuing that search. It’s in the same area that we made the original discovery. It’s still within probably that original 50-foot radius, so we’re still working that area intensely.”
Three days of searching an area of the Wisconsin River near the village of Port Edwards began just before noon on Tuesday, July 19, when a maintenance crew working on a dam near the village first made the discovery. A second day of searching on Wednesday, July 20 turned up even more remains, prompting a third day of search-and-recovery efforts.
“We resumed search operations this (Thursday) morning with several investigators from our department, along with Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield. We also have a couple different K-9 cadaver teams from the area and one from Minnesota.”
Becker says the Wisconsin River Power Company has been cooperating with the search efforts as well. “They drew down the river, to probably the lowest it’s ever been in history, to help us, and it has been very, very helpful in locating more of the skeletal remains. We haven’t found everything yet, so we’re continuing to search.”
Sheriff Becker says the focus right now is to find as many remains as possible, but the identification process is also in its early stages.
“We’ve been working with a forensic anthropologist from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He’s been helping identify some of the skeletal remains. We don’t know if it’s male or female yet. We’re also working with the coroner’s office to possibly identify the individual through dental records, but we haven’t done that yet.”
Becker expects search teams to back out in the search area Friday. “They’re going to draw down the water a little bit more,” Becker added.
“The remains have been in the water for well over a year, based upon the condition they’re in. So, they’ve been in there for a while. We’re obviously looking at people that are missing from the Wood County area first. That doesn’t mean it’s them. I don’t want to give families a false sense of hope that it’s their loved one because we don’t know yet. We just don’t have that positive identification.”
Sheriff Becker said Friday should be the last day for search efforts.
“The area is still being treated as a crime scene, so we’re not letting the public come into the area, and we furthermore recommend that – even with the water being drawn down – it’s still an unsafe environment. There are still very deep areas of the river there. It might not look like it, but with it being drawn down, the current’s very strong, and we don’t want people in there swimming or doing anything right now, because it’s a dangerous environment.”
The Sheriff’s Department was assisted initially by the Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department, Wood County Rescue, the Wood County Coroner’s office and the state crime lab.