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Tentative ID made on found body

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Police holding information until homicide is ruled out

The Clay County Sheriff's Department has tentatively identified the man whose body was found Sunday in Clay County, but are not prepared to release the name at this time.

A handgun was found near the body and the cause of death is due to a gunshot wound to the head. It is not yet known if the wound was self inflected.

Clay County Coroner Rick Swearingen said it's still not been determined if the cause of death is suicide or homicide. He said even Terre Haute pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr was having problems with it due to certain evidence such as the trajectory of the bullet.

"If it turns out that the young man did not commit suicide, we want to have enough information to be able to take an alleged perpetrator to court," Swearingen said.

Investigating officer Clay County Detective Sgt. Mike Heaton said, "With any death investigation, we treat it as a homicide until proven otherwise. We're not ruling out suicide. There are some things we want to piece together before we make a final decision."

The man, believed to be 24 years old, was found in a culvert under U.S. 40 about a quarter to a half mile east of the Staunton flasher light Aug. 8. Some four-wheel riders spotted the man's feet protruding from the culvert and notified police.

A credit card was found on the man's body and is believed to belong to the victim. That man had been reported missing to the Terre Haute Police Department by his mother or grandmother. The family said the last time they saw the young man was July 7.

There are no dental records or finger prints on file for that man. Indiana State Police are trying to run a DNA match in their lab.

The family said the man had no known connections to Clay County and they don't know why he would have been in this area.

Heaton said they are trying to determine who the man was with in the past month and why he would have been in Clay County. The investigation is continuing.



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