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Skeletal remains found in wooded area

The absence of tissue, clothing makes police think the eight bodies have been there years.

Published March 25, 2007


FORT MYERS - Skeletal remains of eight people were found in a wooded area, where investigators believe they had been for several years, police said.

The remains, which had no skin or clothing, were found Friday in a wooded area about 25 feet from an unpaved section of an east Fort Myers road, Fort Myers police Lt. Brian Phillips said.

Investigators were working to identify the bodies and were handling the deaths as homicides unless they find evidence to the contrary, police said.

No trauma was evident, Phillips said.

An ecologist who was surveying a 10-acre lot for a developer discovered the bodies, police spokeswoman Shelly Flynn said.

Police first thought there were three skeletons, but a search turned up five more within 50 yards, detectives said.

Police estimate the bodies have been in the woods for several years, but it was not yet known how they got there.

Technicians from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement collected physical evidence Friday, Flynn said.

The Medical Examiner's Office will try to determine a cause of death.

Investigators also will sift the dirt where the remains were found to see whether bullets might have fallen from the bodies, police said.

"It certainly sounds like a dump site," said Charlie Mesloh, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Florida Gulf Coast University and a former police officer. "But having said that, you would now have to determine whether they were murdered and dumped, killed at that location and left there or just bodies illegally disposed of."

Mesloh said there have been cases in which cremations were paid for but never done, and their loved ones' bodies were dumped in undeveloped areas.

An old grave site is another possibility, although the absence of coffins works against that explanation, he said.

The remains of two men were found in a wooded area of North Port in 1996. It was determined they had been murdered, police said. A serial killer was suspected, but no one was ever charged.

[Last modified March 25, 2007, 01:01:15]

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