SOMERSET — Investigators gathering evidence in one slaying in Pulaski County turned up bone fragments that point to another possible homicide.
Police found the small pieces of bone over the weekend where the body of a man had been dumped and burned, but the bones were not from that victim, authorities said Wednesday.
That was evident because there were two of the same type of bone from a left elbow, said Dr. Emily Craig, the state's forensic anthropologist. "Two individuals were burned at this site," she said.
On Wednesday, investigators searched the site for more remains — painstaking work that included sifting dirt through a screen. A special FBI evidence-collection team helped.
"It's been a pretty tedious process," Craig said.
Searchers found some additional bone fragments Wednesday, said Pulaski County Coroner Richard New.
New said investigators plan to continue searching the site Thursday.
Authorities found the bones while investigating the death of Jeffrey Kevin Price II. Price, 21, had been missing for nearly three weeks when someone on an all-terrain vehicle spotted his body Saturday in a secluded clearing beside Pitman Creek, in a wooded area east of Somerset.
The body was placed in a brush pile, set afire and badly burned.
New said he collected skeletal remains and bone fragments at the scene and sent them to the state medical examiner's office to identify the body.
Craig said she had looked through more than 1,000 bone fragments from the site.
While poring over bone fragments — sorting them by size and color — she found some that could not have come from Price because they were duplicates. The biggest pieces were a 3-inch section of bone from a left elbow, the ulna, and three small pieces of vertebrae.
"They're trying to put together one case and then another one jumps up in front of them," said Jeffrey K. Price, the father of the young man whose body was burned by the creek.
Jeffrey K. Price II was identified through dental records. Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood said his office, which is investigating Price's murder, does not plan to disclose how he was killed until an arrest is made.
It wasn't clear Wednesday how long the bones that didn't come from Price had been at the site or whether a second body had been burned at the same time as his.
However, the other set of bone fragments were not "historic," Craig said, meaning they were not from a very old grave such as a Native American burial site.
Craig can determine that from details such as the color of the bones, though it's difficult to say if the bones had been at the site a week or several years, New said.
The pieces of bone were all burned and most were very small. Taken together, the fragments would fit in the palm of her hand, Craig said.
Wood said his office did not have any reports of missing people that could immediately be linked to the bone fragments found with Price's body.
Craig would not discuss whether there could be more than two bodies among the fragments gathered at the site.
If investigators don't find more bones, a tooth or other evidence, it will be very difficult to identify the person whose bones were found with Price, Craig said.
"We don't have to have all the pieces, but we have to have the right pieces," she said.
Jeffrey K. Price had been to the site where investigators were searching for more evidence Wednesday and said he was impressed with the effort.
"They're turning this place upside down," he said.
He said police have not told him much about their investigation. But he thinks his son fell in with the wrong crowd, and drugs might have figured into his death.
He said whoever killed his son should hope that he doesn't find them.
"They took something from me that money can't ever replace," he said.