2017-11-01 / Front Page

Remains found in woods contain clues to possible identity

Police seek information from public
Kate Shunney

UPDATED Nov. 3, 2017

The Morgan County Sheriff's Department has released an ID photo of a man who could be the person whose remains were found on a wooded hillside in Berkeley Springs on Wednesday.

Sheriff K.C. Bohrer issued the statement and photo this morning:

"Although preliminary there has been nothing found to indicate the manner of death or obvious signs of trauma to the remains. Articles of identification were located at the scene and we are investigating these in an attempt to positively identify the subject. We are releasing a picture (from ID card) and name found at the scene. This may or may not be the identity of the remains but we are asking for anyone who thinks they may know the subjected pictured or the name of the subject listed to contact Captain Tim Stapleton, lead investigator, at 304-258-1067."

Crime scene investigators scoured a 50 yard by 75 yard area yesterday, searching for evidence and as much of the remains as possible.Jose E. CastilloJose E. Castillo

Investigator Capt. Tim Stapleton said today that the photo ID was located with the remains, and shows a picture of a man named Jose E. Castillo. Capt. Stapleton said interviews indicate Castillo had been a member of a church retreat group that stayed at a home on Martinsburg Road a year or two ago. Members of the retreat told police that Castillo didn't return home with the rest of the church members when they left the retreat and instead stayed in the Berkeley Springs area.

Forensic examination of the remains will have to proceed before a cause of death can be determined. For now, the Sheriff's Department is considering this an open death investigation.


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Nov. 2, 2017

Crime scene investigators have located most of the major bones associated with skeletal remains found on a wooded hillside in Berkeley Springs on Wednesday, November 1. Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said this morning police have also found several clues that may help identify the deceased person.

A regional crime scene team of four West Virginia State Police troopers and local police officers are still searching a wooded area behind a Martinsburg Road home for bones and other evidence tied to the remains.

Sheriff Bohrer said all of the large bones of the deceased body have been found and flagged in place. Several smaller bones were found nearby. Bohrer said wild animals likely moved some of the remains away from the body in the time it has been in the woods. He has estimated the body has been outdoors for more than a year.

Clothing found on the deceased have offered some clues to help identify the person.

Bohrer said the individual, presumed to be male, was of a medium build, and wore men’s size medium clothing, size 9 boots and size 32 blue jeans with a 30-inch inseam. The person was wearing a black tee shirt and green pullover sweatshirt at the time of their death. Police also found a blue neck lanyard decorated with smiley faces. Attached to the lanyard is a framed plastic picture of the Virgin Mary, a key and a silver cross.

Bohrer said it’s possible the remains are those of a Hispanic man. Investigators have found that the house behind which the remains lay is rented out as a church retreat to primarily Hispanic church groups.

Police are trying to determine if there is a link between the house and the remains, which lay 20 yards from the back door up a steep hillside.

Bohrer said there are no obvious signs of violence or other clear indicators of the cause of death.

Dog led couple to remains

A local couple discovered the remains on Wednesday afternoon, November 1, while walking their dog.

Steven Kuykendall and his girlfriend Brooklyn Hutchinson took their German Shepherd for a walk on Golden Lane in Berkeley Springs shortly before 4 p.m. The lane begins on Fairfax Street and ends at a turn-around above a wooded area. Kuykendall said their dog continued into the woods and appeared to be sniffing for something. The dog pulled his girlfriend into the leaf-filled area, where she saw a bone on the ground.

“We got further down into the scene and saw what looked like a pelvic bone,” said the Berkeley Springs man.

At first, he thought it might be part of a Halloween decoration.

“I was hoping it was a fake skeleton,” Kuykendall said.

He saw what looked like a skull and kicked it over.

“When I saw that face looking at me, I thought it was too realistic looking,” he said.

The remains weren’t buried in the ground or hidden under leaves, Kuykendall said. He and his girlfriend could see a leg bone and rib cage in clothing.

“The skull wasn’t covered up. The boots weren’t covered up,” he said. Kuykendall described the person’s boots as being a hunting-type boot with rubber on the lower part. He saw blue jeans and a black shirt with the bones.

Kuykendall lives at the end of Golden Lane. He said the couple walks their dog there regularly, but had never seen the body or smelled anything odd there. They used to have an older pit bull, and that dog never showed signs of interest in the wooded area. Their current dog is a younger German Shepherd with a sharper sense of smell, he said.

“It still shakes me up,” Kuykendall said, of finding the remains. “I want to forget it.”

Sheriff Bohrer said the next steps in the investigation include documenting the crime scene area and then sending the remains and evidence for forensic analysis. He said police will also continue to look at missing persons databases for any links to the remains or this area.

Anyone with information that could lead to the identification of the remains should contact the Sheriff’s Department at 304-258-1067 or call the Crime Solver’s anonymous tip line at 304-258-2450.

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