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Human skeleton found in Murrysville woods

| Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Workers spraying for weeds found a human skeleton in a heavily wooded area in Murrysville Monday afternoon.

Police, public safety officials and a deputy coroner used ATVs to reach the remote site off Hickory Hill Road after the bones were discovered at about 1:30 p.m. by two men the property owner had hired to clear the area for hunting.

Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner Tim O'Donnell confirmed that the skeleton was human, but he said it was too early to tell whether the person was a man or a woman or how long the bones had been there.

O'Donnell said there was no soft tissue left, indicating that the person had died some time ago. There was no wallet or ID found with the bones, but O'Donnell said there were two personal items. He declined to elaborate.

Asked whether officials had any leads as to the person's identity, O'Donnell said, "We have an idea, but we're not going to release it."

In May 2008, Wilbert Darr, 74, disappeared after leaving his home on Glendale Lane in a subdivision adjacent to the wooded area.

Murrysville police Chief Thomas Seefeld said the area had been searched after Darr's disappearance, but that he did not know if searchers had passed over the exact site where the bones were found.

"It's remote, it's very heavily wooded, as much of Murrysville is, very rural," he said.

Seefeld said that it was too soon to know if the bones are Darr's.

"It's been two years," he said. "I know the family has long looked for closure."

O'Donnell said that Dennis Dirkmaat, a professor of anthropology at Mercyhurst College in Erie, would travel to Murrysville with a team of graduate students today to excavate the site and remove the bones.

"It's a very meticulous process," O'Donnell said.

The coroner's office most recently consulted Dirkmaat when a human skeleton was found in a wooded area in Mt. Pleasant Township in April. Dirkmaat and his team helped to identify the remains as those of Curtis Eutsey, a teenager who disappeared about 20 years ago.

Robert Daniels, 42, whose sister had dated Eutsey, was arrested for the shotgun murder in May.

Seefeld said that his department would secure the Murrysville site until Dirkmaat arrived. He said officers would be stationed in the woods overnight.

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