LAWERNCE COUNTY, OH (WOWK) –
UPDATE 1/17/18 3:25 PM:
The human remains found in a wooded area in Wayne National Forest last November have been identified as a missing Lawrence County, Ohio man
According to the Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office, the remains found are those of Billy R. Harper, 43, who was reported missing on April 22nd, 2016.
Human skeletal remains were found in Wayne National Forest by hunters on November 25th, 2017. Deputies went with these hunters and discovered a human skull that still had teeth intact.
Deputies say the Skull had a small caliber entry hole that appears to be from a firearm on the right side near the temple area and an exit wound on the left side.
On November 27th, 2017, the Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from people who searched the area where the skull was found. They found some additional bones, a boot, and a very corroded 22 caliber pistol.
Investigators collected these items and routed them as evidence with this case.An extensive search was them made of the area with Sheriff’s Investigators personnel, and Wayne National Forest Law Enforcement. At this time a matching boot was found along with other items of interest.
On December, 2nd 2017 Deputies and numerous volunteers with a local metal detector search club conducted a grid search of the area and hillside where the bones were found. This search turned up additional items of interest.
On December, 14th 2017 Sheriff’s Detectives and the Lawrence County Coroner’s Office processed the bones and transported them to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office where they have been examined by pathologists. The Pathologist extracted a tooth from the skull for DNA comparison.
At that time the Montgomery Coroner’s Office requested that the bones remain in their possession.
On December, 14th 2017, Sheriff’s Investors transported the extracted tooth and the firearm that was found to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for comparison. Items belonging to Billy R. Harper were submitted to BCI in 2016 so that we would have a DNA makeup on file for any future comparisons.
On January, 16th 2018 Investigators with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office were contacted by BCI Forensic Scientists and advised that DNA was successfully extracted from the tooth that had been submitted and compared to the standards previously submitted that belonged to Mr. Harper. The results were confirmed to be that of Billy R. Harper. They say the conclusion of comparison is 1 in 1 trillion conclusive.
Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office say they were also informed that the firearm in question was found to be a Harrington & Richardson 22 Caliber LR Revolver. It was found to have one spent shell casing and seven unfired cartridges.
Sheriff’s Detectives are still waiting for a full report from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office concerning the examination of the bones. Detectives are requesting that the ATF search and compare the serial number from the revolver to see if Harper is the registered owner of that firearm.
Immediate family members of Harper have been advised that the remains found are confirmed to be him. It is anticipated that investigators with the Sheriff’s Office will obtain the remains of Harper from the Montgomery Coroner’s Office in the very near future and return them to family members for burial.
At the time of Harper’s disappearance, an extensive search of the area was conducted which included Sheriff’s Deputies, Wayne National Forestry Law Enforcement and other personnel, volunteers on ATV’s, volunteers on horseback, and canines were also utilized in the area near where Harper’s vehicle was located. This area consists of very dense forest land and rough terrain.
Investigators found a letter of apology in Harper’s vehicle in his handwriting. At the time of his disappearance family members advised investigators of some unusual emotional activity from Harper just prior to his disappearance.
This case remains under investigation by Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Facebook page, human remains were found in a wooded area on Wayne National Forrest Land off of CR 5 in Aid Township.
The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office put out the following press release.
On Saturday 11/25/2017 at about 1:50 PM the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office was notified that possible human remains were found on Wayne National Forrest Land off of CR 5 in Aid Township.
Deputies and Detectives met with the complainant, a hunter who advised that while hunting on federal forestry land he found a human skull. Deputies were taken several hundred yards into the woods to the area and collected this skull. A search of the area was conducted and another bone believed to be human was also found in the area.
The investigation is ongoing and the Sheriff’s Office and Lawrence County Coroner’s Office will be providing these bones to experts who can possibly matchup dental records and DNA in trying to determine who they belong to.
Sheriff Jeff Lawless
We will update with the latest information as it becomes available.