NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – An apparent human skull and bones were discovered last week in a wooded area between Callahan and Hilliard, according to a Nassau County Sheriff's Office report.
Now, a family is wondering if the remains could be those of Rick Taylor, who was 29 years old when he was last seen in July 2017 at his Callahan-area home. His case is one the 10 open missing persons cases in the county.
"If this is him, I feel very relieved and thankful so we can get this closure," said Tina Silcox, Taylor's aunt. "Two and a half years is a long time."
The death investigation began Sept. 15 after two corrections officers looking for artifacts in the woods near the intersection of Dyal Road and Silcox Place noticed what appeared to be a human skull lying in the creek that runs through a property, the Sheriff's Office said.
Detectives responded to the scene, where they said more bones were discovered in and around the creek. The bones were collected and taken to the medical examiner's office in Jacksonville.
The bones have not yet been identified. At this point, it's unclear whether they are those of a man or a woman. According to the Sheriff's Office, it appeared they had been there quite some time.
"Being out there that long, eventually it starts cracking and coming apart," Sheriff Bill Leeper said.
Silcox told News4Jax that her son-in-law was one of the corrections officers who found the bones. Her nephew's sister was the one who reported him missing. According to that missing persons report, Taylor's sister said that her brother had a history of trying to harm himself and she last saw him at their home off Dyal Road, which also has access to the woods and creek.
The report shows Taylor (pictured) left the home with cigarettes and other personal property, adding that his cellphone was left in his bedroom. He was reportedly wearing black jeans, cowboy boots and no shirt when he left on foot.
"He wouldn’t get lost because he already knows the property and has been here for a while, but he could have gone out and gotten snake bit," Silcox said. "You know, the swamp is full of moccasins and rattlesnakes, so there is no telling."
Leeper told News4Jax on Tuesday that the remains were not believed to be those of Joleen Cummings, a 34-year-old Nassau County mother of three who disappeared in May 2018. Her body has not been found.
Kimberly Kessler, who worked with Cummings at the Tangles Hair Salon in Yulee, was arrested a few days later on a charge of auto theft. Months later, when prosecutors felt they had enough evidence against her, Kessler was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder.