Foul play suspected in discovery of human remains in wooded area

Law enforcement dogs, evidence markers seen at investigation site off Utsey Road

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Colette DuChanois - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Foul play is suspected in the discovery of human remains in a wooded area of Northwest Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Sky 4 aerials from early Friday afternoon showed at least two cadaver dogs sniffing around, yellow evidence markers on the ground, crime scene vans lined up and many homicide detectives at the investigation site off Utsey Road near the intersection of Pritchard and Imeson roads.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, a neighbor was working on the wooded property off Utsey Road about 6:10 p.m. Thursday when he came across skeletal remains and called police.

Homicide detectives confirmed that the remains are human.

IMAGES: Sky 4 over Utsey Road scene 
WATCH: JSO gives update on discovery of remains Remains could be connected to cold case
RELATED: Man finds remains while clearing land in wooded area

Lt. Craig Waldrup said at a news briefing Friday afternoon that they believe there is only one set of remains, though it's still unclear how long the remains have been there. He said foul play is suspected because of the way the body was positioned. 

The discovery could be tied to a cold case investigation, but Waldrup would not say which one.

An age, gender and identity are not known at this time. A forensic anthropologist was called to help the medical examiner with the identification process, which could take weeks or months.

Shannon Whitman

Photo: Shannon Whitman

Joseph Cummings, who lives across the street, made the grisly discovery. He told News4Jax he was clearing land with a brush hog when he found bones wrapped around a tarp inside a bag. 

"I wound up running over a bag and when I ran over the bag, it uncovered all the bones," Cummings said Friday. "The bag was black, but the tarp was green. It was a green tarp inside of a black bag it looked like ... The body was wrapped in the tarp, and the tarp and body were put in a black bag."

He said he immediately thought to call the police.

"My first reaction was to stop everything and don't tear up anything more than I already have," he said. "The whole body was there. Ribs, femur, skull -- every bit of it."

Cummings added that he had just been hired last week to cut the grass and brush at the property.

"It was the first time I cut that place," he said.

Neighbors were stunned to learn what was uncovered in the wooded area.

"I was coming from work around 12 o'clock and I saw all these lights and police and basically all that and I was, like, 'Oh, my gosh. What's going on?'" Chris Phillipe said Friday.

It was a bizarre welcoming to the area for Phillipe and Desiree Herring, who just moved into their new home nearby days ago.

"I read the article and I was, like, 'Oh, my God. That's two houses away. That's crazy,'" Herring said.

Phillipe added, "We are still getting our house together."

Investigators will be at the scene off Utsey Road for several more days. The wooded area is not far from a home. According to police, the owner is cooperating. 

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).

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