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A box of evidence has provided a home in the the Idaho Sheriff’s Office basement for over thirty-four years. "Mr. Bones" resides here. The title is one of affection, bestowed long ago to the remains of a man who was discovered by hunters in 1984 as they slogged through a desolate wilderness area near Elk Summit, Idaho.
Immediate impressions of such a situation would normally conjure up images of a man who had slowly succumbed to nature's harsh conditions by way of an isolated existence. Yet the scene this lot had stumbled upon was chaotic.
Human bones were scattered across the area as far as they could see; remnants of clothing had been dispersed in all directions.
The man who was now strewn across his own former campsite had clearly been dressed to withstand uncomfortable conditions--bundled for warmth in two layers of wool and flannel with a coat also laying near his remains. A few coins were cloistered in the pocket of his brown imitation leather jacket, the singular item which seemed to have escaped the carnage even as it lay twenty feet away from the man's own skull.
A lens was missing from his wire-rimmed glasses, which would have handicapped his near-sighted vision in a dire way. Thorough searches of the campsite failed to produce this lens. It soon became apparent, however, that this man was missing something much more important: a name. He carried no identification, wore no jewelry, possessed no items to use as research and left very little behind to help investigators figure out his name.
The Sheriff's Office soon realized they had little to go on for determining the deceased man's identity and deputies began to scan recent missing person reports for an adult male who would fit the parameters of their case. A few names came up with regularity--James Schroeder, a Wisconsin resident who had gone missing two years earlier on a hunting expedition in the area, Steven Pearsall, a local man who had gone missing with two other recently discovered homicide victims, and Paul Fugate, a nature enthusiast missing from Oregon.
In order to determine with certainty whether the remains could belong to one of the missing men, the Sherriff’s Office decided to seek an expert analysis from Forensic Anthropologist Rodger Hagler from San Francisco University. Additionally, they were able to procure a local Grangeville.
Basic demographic information began to unfold as the forensic authority revealed his assessment. This was a white male, roughly 40-45 years old, standing approximately 5'6" or 5'7" tall. The man had clearly been deceased for two years prior to his remains being discovered in the woods.
In an unusual turn of events, Dr. Hagler did not agree that this man had died of natural causes; rather, he surmised a wound had been caused by an object with a sharp edge, such as a knife, which had pierced between two of the left ribs. He could not deny that this wound may have played a significant role in this man’s death.
The results were surprising, as the cause of death was now uncertain once again. The biometric data and case information were entered into NAMUS and there was now significant potential for a potential identification. “Mr. Bones” had officially taken on a new name—he would now be known officially as UP7538.
With the UNT report determining a natural cause of death, many have begun to consider that the ravaged clothing and gruesome scene of recovery may have been the work of an animal Detective Jerry As quoted in the 2014 Idaho County Free Press article, ‘ “Something violent happened here,” Johnson said, due to the spread of the evidence, specifically noting the eyeglass lens’ location. ‘
In a 2014 interview via email with David Rauzi for the Idaho County Free Press, he recalled his initial assessment upon surveying the remains. “At that time, I had no idea of what might have happened. "I was told there was an abandoned camp located just up the hill from where the remains were located. When I learned that, I had suspicions that possibly foul play was involved..."
Deputy Larry Murray seemed to concur with this evaluation, as evidenced in his follow-up report: “ There is little doubt that the remains and the camp are directly connected,”
Investigation into the abanonded camp did not take place until 1986. The abandoned camp, located roughly one mile from the crime scene, could not be located by then due to recent logging operations. Even more disappointing, many pieces of evidence that had originally been collected were discovered to have been missing due to never having been accurately entered into the system.
One piece of evidence that was successfully recovered during the original investigation of that abandoned campsite: a single eyeglass lens with a nearsighted prescription.
In 1984, Deputy Kevin Reynolds was one of the first case investigators called to the scene. "We found the skeletal remains of a human, partially dismembered and partially dressed," he wrote in a ISCO record just six days after the discovery. The report went on to reveal that the remains were found in both supine and prone positions and had been scattered across a wide area, more than half the length of a football field. A brown imitation leather jacket was found propped against a tree, roughly 20 feet away from the head of the remains.