2017-11-08 / Front Page

Remains on wooded hillside still under investigation

Police work to verify ID on body, await forensics on cause of death
by Kate Shunney


Morgan County’s Medical Examiner and local officers arrive on the scene on November 1. Morgan County’s Medical Examiner and local officers arrive on the scene on November 1. Human remains that were located by a couple walking their dog last Wednesday afternoon have been transported to the State Medical Examiner’s office for forensic testing.

Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said he hopes testing will reveal a cause of death and more specific information about the identity of the body found decomposed on a wooded hillside in Berkeley Springs.

A non-government photo ID located with the remains behind a home in the 500 block of Martinsburg Road belongs to a Hispanic male named Jose E. Castillo.

Bohrer said investigators are trying to verify if the ID matches the remains.

According to information gathered during interviews, Castillo may have been with a church retreat group that rented the house along Martinsburg Road sometime in the last two years, police said. The remains were found up a steep hillside about 20 yards behind the home.


An ID found with the remains is for Jose E. Castillo. An ID found with the remains is for Jose E. Castillo. Police have found that the house is rented out as a retreat to primarily Hispanic church groups.

Investigator Tim Stapleton said police were told that the man pictured on Castillo’s ID came to Berkeley Springs with a retreat group but did not leave with the rest of the group, saying he had found work here.

Bohrer said officers have been in touch with officials in Arlington County, Va. and members of a church group that used the house.

Dog led couple to remains

A local couple discovered the remains on 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.


Local police officers and a West Virginia State Police crime scene team search the wooded area where remains were found. Local police officers and a West Virginia State Police crime scene team search the wooded area where remains were found. The lane runs off Fairfax Street and ends at a turnaround above a wooded area. Kuykendall said their dog continued into the woods 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 on 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.”

Between Wednesday afternoon and mid-day Thursday, crime scene investigators located most of the major bones associated with skeletal remains. A regional crime scene team of West Virginia State Police troopers and local police officers combed the wooded area for bones and other evidence tied to the remains.

Bohrer said wild animals had moved some of the remains away from the body in the time it has been in the woods. He estimated the body had been outdoors for more than a year, maybe two.

Clothing found on the deceased were a men’s size medium, size 32 blue jeans with a 30-inch inseam and a size 9 boot. 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.

Sheriff Bohrer said the next steps in the investigation would be to collect more information about Castillo and look at missing persons databases for any links to the remains.

Medical examiners will work to determine a cause and date of death in the case.

“We’re awaiting results to make sure it’s not anything other than a natural death,” said Sheriff Bohrer.

Anyone with information in the case 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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