Clay County Sheriff’s Office detectives and crime scene technicians are at an Orange Park pond where human skeletal remains were discovered Monday night.
Investigators said a 15-year-old boy was fishing in the retention pond when he saw what he thought to be human remains, and he told his mother and another relative. They went to the pond and saw the remains, then contacted the Sheriff's Office.
The pond, which is in a heavily wooded area near 350 Crossings Blvd., about 300 yards off Wells Road, was being drained Tuesday to see if additional remains may be submerged. That was expected to take several hours.
Investigators said drainage work done by utility workers over the course of the last week is what initially caused the lake level to drop so that part of the skeletal remains became visible.
"Portions of (the pond) are still under water, so to have a good area to where we can sift through and thoroughly vet the area, we need to get the water level lower for our folks," said Col. Craig Aldridge, of the Sheriff's Office. "It's a very muddy mess back there right now."
Investigators said a review of missing persons cases in the region, including three in Clay County, has begun as part of the process of identifying the skeletal remains. In addition, there are homeless camps in the dense, wooded area.
The woods back up to apartments on one side and the Stay Suites of America on the other.
"Right when I opened my door over here, I could see them little flags on the other side of the pond over there, and I was telling her it looks like forensics out there and stuff," said Arthur Gates, who's been staying at the nearby motel with his family for the last month.
"It's really scary. I mean, that's a concern," Gates added. "You know, we're not from here, we just come here from Alabama, and normally just see stuff like this on TV. Now we're in a bigger city and it's kind of scary."
The Sheriff's Office said it expects the recovery of all related evidence at the pond to take a minimum of two days. The area surrounding it will remain taped off and monitored by deputies until the search is complete.
Investigators said it could take days or weeks for the Medical Examiner's Office to identify the remains.