The body was recovered Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Larry Amerson said as he stood near the scene at the edge of some woods along Alabama 21 Wednesday morning while investigators worked nearby.
The Calhoun County Cold Case Unit had received information about a body that could be connected to a years-old missing-person case it has been working on, the sheriff said.
“They came out here yesterday afternoon and managed to find the remains of a human being,” Amerson said.
It was 22 years ago when James Patrick Burrows and Jeffrey Scott McFry went missing from Piedmont. Last month was the 15-year anniversary of the morning Karen Steed was last seen by her husband leaving their Piedmont home. Piedmont’s most recent missing person, Carla Cook Fuqua, disappeared three years ago.
The body was discovered in the woods nearly half a mile from a dirt road, past the Chief Ladiga Trail, close to an area many Piedmont residents refer to as “the brickyard.”
The sheriff said forensic investigators would need to determine the race and sex of the individual from the mostly skeletal remains.
On Aug. 23, 1990, James Patrick Burrows, 23, disappeared. He was last seen driving his 250 Honda motorcycle at 8 a.m. from the home of Jimmy Steed, who is the husband of missing woman Karen Steed. Burrows’ motorcycle was found a year later in a pond near the spot where the remains were discovered Tuesday. The location where the motorcycle was
recovered in 1991 is a mile and a half from Steed’s home.
Burrows allegedly disappeared after stealing marijuana plants from infamous drug kingpin David Ronald Chandler.
Chandler was sentenced to death in 1991 after a jury convicted him of marijuana trafficking and involvement in Marlin Earl Shuler’s death. His sentence later was commuted to life in prison.
Jeffery Scott McFry, 24, was last seen in his mother’s trailer on Sept. 5, 1990. After his disappearance, investigators received tips that McFry’s body was in a well. Several searches by the Piedmont Rescue Squad, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and deputies yielded no sign of McFry. His disappearance is also thought to stem from stealing marijuana from Chandler.
Karen Steed, 29, was last seen leaving her Piedmont home on Nov. 25, 1997. She went missing seven years after Chandler was convicted, adding to speculation that her disappearance was due to something she knew regarding the other missing persons. Her husband, Jimmy Steed, is the brother of Chandler’s so-called “right-hand man,” Bobby Steed. Karen Steed’s 1982 Ford Fairmont was found abandoned on Interstate 20 eastbound near Heflin one month after she went missing.
Carla Cook Fuqua, 28, was last seen in Piedmont on Oct. 29, 2009. Fuqua, whose disappearance has not been associated with Chandler, was reaching the end of a court-mandated drug program before she went missing. Shortly after her disappearance, family and friends held a candlelight vigil in downtown Piedmont. Piedmont police and a Texas-based horseback search team looked for Fuqua, but none of the tips led to her discovery.
Amerson on Wednesday said it would be good if the case helped at least one family to know what happened to their loved one.
“We’ve got families here in Calhoun County that need some closure,” Amerson said. “We need to find out the causes of these people going missing, and certainly once you have a crime scene, then you’ve got something to work with.”
The sheriff said Wednesday evening the body had been recovered and will go to an Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences laboratory.
“We believe there’s a likelihood that they can make an identification by dental records,” Amerson said.
The sheriff said there’s a potential for dental records to be found fairly quickly. Amerson said he felt comfortable saying foul play was involved in the death.
Amerson said the Cold Case Unit has solved 12 previous homicides and that it is fully aware of the challenges those types of investigations bring.
“We’re going to be working energetically with other law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office to see if we can bring this case to a close,” Amerson said.
Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said once the body has been identified he will begin the process of building a case. He said time could be a factor when working a cold case, especially when determining what evidence is still present.
“I’m here to coordinate with the sheriff and see what happens next,” McVeigh said, speaking at the scene Wednesday morning.
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.