Seeking Closure

Officials awaiting forensic results on remains

OBSERVER Photo by M. J. Stafford Chautauqua County officials are awaiting results from forensic experts after two sets of human remains were found this week in the town of Portland. Police and forensic team members are pictured Tuesday near where the remains were recovered.

Fifteen years ago, a familiar scenario was taking place. In September 2006, the body of a woman was found by hunters on remote state game lands in the town of Charlotte.

That discovery sparked a four-day search of the immediate area that included a forensic investigation team, the FBI and several police agencies that ultimately led to the identification of Yolanda Bindics, who had been missing for two years.

Today, Chautauqua County officials are awaiting results from forensic experts after skeletal remains believed to be from two women were found this week in the town of Portland.

A team with the Forensic Anthropology Lab at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., is working to identify the bodies through dental records and DNA. The first set of remains were found after a hiker came across a human skull Sunday evening near a trail off Woleben Road in Portland. While excavating the site the following day, Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone said deputies came across another set of remains nearby.

“The finding of two bodies being discovered, especially that it was rather apparent that there was quite a timeframe in between the bodies being placed there, is a new experience for me,” Quattrone said Wednesday. “We are hoping they have results soon, but with two bodies, it may be longer.”

Local investigators on Tuesday received assistance from New York State Forest rangers and Sheriff’s Academy recruits to coordinate a grid search of the wooded area, near a portion of the Chautauqua Rails to Trails where the remains were found in what the sheriff said appeared to be shallow graves.

“The teamwork is absolutely imperative to this and most investigations,” Quattrone said of the multi-agency effort. “I sometimes get worried about naming those who are involved for fear of missing someone or an agency as there are so many moving parts and we rely on so many different agencies.

“The Mercyhurst Forensic Anthropology Team is an invaluable resource — their expertise and willingness to work on this type of investigation is a great asset to our agency and to our entire community. Dr. (Dennis) Dirkmaat and his team from Mercyhurst not only put in many hours at the scene but also will be evaluating all the forensic evidence that can be found from the remains.

“Our local law enforcement agencies and New York State Police have been very responsive and helpful in providing manpower at the scene as well as sharing their investigatory files from any open cases they have. In addition, the FBI has been actively assisting with manpower and federal resources to assist.”

At present, Quattrone said investigators are looking at open missing person cases including Patricia Laemmerhirt, who went missing in April 1976; Lori Ceci Bova, who went missing in June 1997; and Corrie Anderson, who went missing in October 2008.

Laemmerhirt resided with her husband and children on North Portage Street in Westfield — about 6 miles from Woleben Road in Portland. She was 27 years old when she was last seen. According to press clippings from The Post-Journal, crews in September 1993 dug up the floor of a storage room built in the mid-1970s on the property where Laemmerhirt had lived.

Bova was last seen in public around 10:30 p.m. on June 7, 1997, when she, her husband, her sister and her brother-in-law went to dinner at Red Lobster on Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood. Tyrone Bova told police that he and Lori had gotten into an argument hours after their meal, around 2 a.m., prompting her to go out for a walk for which she never returned.

Anderson, who worked a part-time job at the Jamestown Community College library, was last seen Oct. 28, 2008, leaving the former Lake County Dodge car dealership on Washington Street in Jamestown after visiting her boyfriend. Police know she made it home after leaving the dealership because certain items were located inside her residence. Her family contacted police after she failed to pick up her son from school and meet with his teacher.

“We are looking at all of our missing person cases and utilizing dental records and DNA to evaluate if either of the bodies discovered are from Chautauqua County,” Quattrone said. “In addition we are inquiring with neighboring counties and states to see if they have any missing person cases that may be consistent with the remains we have found.

“I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and anxiety that the families of the missing persons are going through and it is our hope that we are able to quickly determine the identity of the remains and have some closure for two of the families. It is also important to know that while the cases are unsolved we do have investigators regularly reviewing and seeking further leads to hopefully solve the cases.”


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