Identifying the skeletal remains believed to be those of a missing Noblesville resident Dorothy Heard, 74, could take several weeks, according to Grant County Coroner Stephen Dorsey. Noblesville Police Dept. Spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said investigators traveled to Marion, Ind., and conducted searches on Feb. 3, 7 and 9 after a tip was provided to the police department.
Authorities said a preliminary examination of the torso did not reveal a cause of death or foul play. The remains were turned over to the University of Indianapolis’ Dept. of Archeology for further examination on Feb. 13. Dorsey said the process could take up to “several weeks,” but would produce a gender, age and an estimate of how long the remains have been exposed to nature.
Barnes, who keeps in constant contact with the Heard family, informed them NPD officers were searching around Marion when human remains were found last week.
“We felt that was necessary, and we’ve tried to keep them informed as much as possible during this investigation,” he said. “We have simply told them we have found human remains, and we cannot elaborate beyond that because we don’t have those answers.”
Since the investigation into Heard’s disappearance began on June 14, police have searched for her in Hamilton, Tipton, Madison, Grant and Wabash counties, but the Mississinewa Reservoir in Grant County has always been one location of particular interest. Police first began searching for evidence of Heard at the Mississinewa Reservoir, which includes 15,000 acres, on June 17-18.
“We’ve been up in this area a number of times. We’ve had information throughout this investigation that had made this a point of interest up here,” said Barnes. “When we learned the information we did last week, we were somewhat prepared because we have been up in this area before.”
Heard’s nephew is still a person of interest in her disappearance. Donald Burns, 47, of Elwood was caught on surveillance video footage on June 13 selling a wedding ring matching Heard’s at 5:23 p.m. in a Marion pawn shop. Barnes said Burns’ right thumb imprint and photo ID were used at the EZ Pawn Store to sell the merchandise. Surveillance video shows a man matching Burns’ description buying jewelry worth $378.78 from the Wal-Mart at 5:40 p.m. About 15 minutes later, another $698 transaction was denied from Heard’s credit card company.
Police officers wanted to ask Burns questions about Heard’s disappearance, but were unable to because he refuses to cooperate in the investigation. Barnes said police believe Burns might have been one of the few people to have last seen Heard.
On Jan. 17, the Marion Police Dept. charged Burns with two counts of forgery for allegedly using his aunt’s credit cards at Wal-Mart, and two counts of theft for allegedly taking items out of Heard’s house. He has not been charged in Heard’s disappearance.
By Robert Herrington