Mystery: Hiker finds skull, leading to body near Madras

No idea' yet if foul play involved; autopsy performed in Portland

By Kelsey Watts, KTVZ.COM

A weekend hiker walking a dog found a skull in the woods east of Madras, leading Jefferson County sheriff's deputies to search for, then find an as-yet unidentified body, officials said Thursday.

The grisly discovery prompted sheriff's deputies to bring out cadaver dogs, and after a lengthy search, investigators found an otherwise intact human body in the grassland on private property, a few miles southeast of town.

The remains, likely on scene for "a few months," were sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office, where an autopsy was conducted Wednesday, said sheriff's Sgt. Bryan Skidgel. The results won't be available for several days, he added.

The sheriff's office said the call came in around 12:30 p.m. Sunday about a human skull.

Asked if foul play was suspected, the sergeant said that at this point, they have "no idea." He said the body apparently had been at the scene for "a few months," and that clothing was found, but no items to help identify the person.

At this point, there's no information about the gender or age of the person found, said Sgt. Marc Heckathorn. It's hoped the autopsy results will not only determine the cause and manner of death, but help officials identify the person.

"Until we get all the findings back, we're kind of at a stall right now, just waiting for the rest of the report from the autopsy to become processed and available even for us to have," Heckathorn said.

People in Madras are very curious about what actually happened outside their city.

"It's a little spooky, that's for sure," said resident Casey Benningfield. "I think that's pretty crazy. There's been a lot of - with the economy going down, crime has come up. So I mean, it makes you worry it could be something malicious or foul play."

There are no missing persons cases in Jefferson County, but Madras police say they do have one such case, but won't reveal more details. Until the remains are identified, there's no way to know if they are related.

"There was a stabbing a couple weeks or a month ago," Benningfield said. "And then a shooting even a couple months before that. So that's why it makes you think, 'Oh gosh,' you know?"

But for now, there are more questions than answers, as everyone, including police, waits to see who's body was found, and if any crime was involved.

Benningfield called it "kind of sad, actually, that he doesn't have a family or someone that would notice to miss him."

Heckathorn said, "Even though the scene may be old, it should still provide lots of clues as to how this person passed away."

Deputies say that while they have no idea if foul play was involved, they have to investigate every possible scenario. Anyone with information that could help is asked to call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at (541) 475-6520.
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