Remains are probably missing migrant worker, says medical examiner

by Kate Shunney

West Virginia’s medical examiner has said the human remains found on a wooded hillside in Berkeley Springs on November 1, 2017 is likely a migrant farm worker who had last been confirmed in the area in February 2016.

Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer issued a press release on Friday, December 14 about the medical examiner’s findings.

Capt. Tim Stapleton was the lead investigator on the case.

A local couple found the remains last February while walking their dog along Golden Lane, off Fairfax Street in the area of The Pines. They reported the find to police, who cordoned off the area and conducted a close search of the leaf-covered hillside. The majority of the skeletal remains were recovered. Police said the body was clothed and had hunting-style boots on. They also found a necklace and non-government ID on the body. There was no apparent cause of death, so investigators sent the remains to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Charleston.

According to Sheriff Bohrer, Medical Examiner Andrea Orvik determined that the remains were likely to be those of a man identified by a Washington, D.C. church group. The group had hosted a retreat in a rented house in the 500 block of Martinsburg Road in February 2016. The man had come to the retreat but did not return to the Washington area at the end of the event, police said. The remains were found on a hillside behind the retreat house.

“The clothing on the remains matched the clothing of a Hispanic migrant worker who had gone missing in February of 2016, confirmed by a photograph provide to OCME [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner],” Dr. Orvick’s report said. “Toxicological testing could not be performed due to lack of adequate specimen.”

The medical examiner’s report indicated the remains were consistent with the photo of a man who may have used the name Andreas Sanchez.

Investigators found he was known to frequent the Takoma Park, Md. area and may have worked at a ranch or farm in West Virginia.

“Due to the skeletal condition of the remains and lack of evidence of trauma, the cause and manner of death are undetermined. Identification cannot be accomplished at this time due to the condition of the remains, migrant status of the individual and lack of evidence for comparison,” the medical examiner’s report said.