Investigators hope to bring closure to murder case in Garfield County

CANYON CREEK, Colorado — Investigators wrapped up their work shortly after noon Sunday at an apple orchard where a dismembered body was discovered in June.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office brought in Colorado-based nonprofit NecroSearch International, and called upon the Garfield County Search and Rescue Inc., which brought in cadaver dogs, to hopefully find some additional clues as to who killed Janine Ann Johler, 38, of Aurora.

Garfield County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Don Breier said Sunday that the reason for the search to continue, more than four months after Johler's body was discovered in the orchard, was because forensic evidence which could be helpful in solving a case can exist for years.

The Sheriff's Office is doing all it can not to let this murder go unsolved, he said.

“We have a lady that was heinously murdered, and we need to get the best evidence possible and get the best case put together and seek closure,” Breier said. “Not only for the community, because it's a shocking thing for the valley, but for the family who lost a daughter.”

Breier could not say what, or if any, new evidence was found over the weekend search. Crews were out for about 10 hours on Saturday, and again for about six hours on Sunday.

NecroSearch International president Tom Bellinger said that five specialists came to Glenwood to aid in the search this weekend. Bellinger, who is a hydrologist, said that NecroSearch offers a variety of specialties to aid in investigations. NecroSearch employs a variety of techniques including the use of cadaver dogs, entomology, the study of animal scavenging and serology, among others, and does not charge for its services.

“We look at the physical and natural environment and kind of cross reference, too,” Bellinger said.

He added that they will look at plants and the physical environment, which could indicate “scavenging,” and the way that weather could potentially scatter evidence through a crime scene.

NecroSearch was incorporated in 1989 and has assisted in more than 300 cases in more than 10 countries and more than 40 states, Bellinger said.

Sunday, Bellinger said, his team was basically offering its observations skills.

David Gruys, with Garfield County Search and Rescue Inc. said that they brought in three dog teams at the request of the Sheriff's Office. Gruys said that they don't get the opportunity to participate in these type of forensic searches very often, but they are qualified to do so.

“Whenever the Sheriff's Office needs a search dog for whatever reason, including human remains, we are right here with them doing it,” Gruys said.

The dogs are trained in several different areas and can be very helpful in finding forensic evidence, like human remains, even if they have been lying in a field for extended periods.

“With human remains it's a little more specialized,” Gruys said.

Johler's dismembered body was found in the apple orchard, just off Interstate 70 and Canyon Creek Road, on June 12. A teenage orchard worker found Johler's remains in a bag, which authorities at the time suspected may have been torn open by animals.

Johler's body was identified on June 19, and her last known residence was in Aurora, a suburb of Denver. She was last seen at her Aurora home on May 1, and according to reports at the time of her disappearance, the Aurora Police described her as having a diminished mental capacity.

jgardner@postindependent.com

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