Bones believed to belong to homeless person

2013-09-21T11:44:00Z 2013-09-23T18:27:41Z Bones believed to belong to homeless personJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
September 21, 2013 11:44 am  • 

HOBART | Hobart police recovered more human bones Saturday during a second, daytime search of a wooded area behind a strip mall where homeless people often camp out.

The scattered bones are believed to belong to the same person whose remains were found Friday night, after a passing bicyclist spotted them, Hobart Police Department Investigative Services Cmdr. Jeremy Ogden said. A few additional bones were found near the area where the skeletal remains were initially discovered. Bones typically are not all in the same place when left out in the woods because animals will drag them off over time, he said.

The Lake County Coroner's Office plans to send the bones, which include a skull, to a forensics expert at the University of Indianapolis. Professor Stephen Nawrocki will figure out how and when the person died.

Police do not know how long the bones had been there before they were discovered.

Investigators do not suspect foul play and believe the dead person was homeless, Ogden said. They found belongings that suggested the person was living in the wooded area, where homeless people are known to congregate.

"There's the possibility that he or she was staying there in a makeshift shelter," Ogden said. "Homeless people frequent the area behind that shopping center, and stay back there. I've been with the department for 16 years, and every year there have been homeless people there. It's where they go when they're passing through."

The Crossing at Hobart shopping center off U.S. 30 is home to Toys R Us and Old Navy. The strip mall is located on the 2100 block of East 79th Avenue, just north of the Westfield Southlake Mall.

Five Hobart police officers did a second search of the wooded area Saturday morning, because the initial search was at night in thick brush. They scoured the same general area they combed Friday night.

"We found various items that lead us to believe he or she was hanging out there," Ogden said.

At this point, investigators have not determined the gender, age or race of the deceased person. The cause and manner of death are unknown, according to the coroner's office.

Police hope Nawrocki, a forensics expert who works with a team of graduate students, can answer some of their questions.

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