Lexington police investigating a missing persons case found a decomposed body in a trash container Wednesday on a short, dead-end street in the Fortune Drive industrial park.
Standing before several reporters, Coroner Gary Ginn said, "What we have here is a human being that is in a Herbie."
The body had been packed into a Herbie, a green, wheeled trash can commonly seen in residential areas. The trash can apparently was placed in a brushy, wooded area on Fortune Drive. Investigators had not established the dead person's identity as of Wednesday evening.
The body was in a "mummified, decomposed" state, and the individual had been dead for "quite some time," Ginn said.
Without an apparent cause of death, it wasn't clear whether the person was killed. But the coroner's office is treating it as a homicide, Ginn said.
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Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said police were led to the scene, near Fortune Drive and Trade Center Drive, while investigating a case of a person who was reported missing in late December. Roberts did not elaborate, saying only, "Today we were privy to some information that led us to this scene."
Roberts said it was too early to say whether the body in the trash can was that of the missing person. She said the person had been reported missing in December by "loved ones."
Police declined to provide any details about the missing person's case.
"We wouldn't want to alarm anybody and we wouldn't want to give anybody false hope who may have a stake in that missing person's case," she said.
The trash can was discovered about 1:30 p.m., Roberts said. About 3:30 p.m., investigators hacked away some of the brush with a machete so they could wheel the trash can into the street. Investigators wrapped it in a blue tarp and placed it in the back of a pickup.
The body was not removed from the can at the scene.
Investigators also picked up other pieces of potential evidence from the brush and placed them inside brown paper bags. That evidence was taken to the police's mobile crime lab.
Ginn said the case was being worked as a homicide so investigators would give it "high priority" and because of the suspicious circumstances in which the body was found.
"We can always rule that out and drop down to accident or suicide" if evidence shows the person was not killed intentionally, he said.
Ginn said he could not immediately determine the gender of the body. He said the body would be sent to the state medical examiner's office to determine the person's identity and cause of death.
The person's head and jaw appeared to be intact, Ginn said.
"By finding that, we'll be able to get some dental records, if this person has a dentist on file," he said.
This was Lexington's second homicide investigation this year. The first homicide happened Jan. 1 under less mysterious circumstances.
Police have said they received a call early New Year's Day from Gambino August, 44, who reported he had shot a friend during a fight. The victim, Natalie Liles, died of a gunshot wound.
Detectives found crack cocaine in the apartment where the shooting occurred, on Continental Square off Eastland Parkway.
Police charged August with murder, and the case was submitted to a grand jury.
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