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UPDATE - Beach combers find human skeleton - UPDATE

South Boston News South Boston News
Sheriff’s Investigator D.L. Callahan drives a mobile crime lab from the beachfront location where a vacationer discovered skeletal remains. / July 21, 2010

Preliminary examination of the skeletal remains found on Tuesday, July 21 leads the Medical Examiner to classify the bones as those of a young, adult male. An estimation of how long the victim has been dead will not be available until Saturday.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office has been in contact with Virginia State Police and surrounding counties in an effort to identify the remains.

Anyone having information about this incident is urged to contact the case agent, Investigator Chris Whittemore with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office. 888-624-2207.

A mini-vacation at the family’s Carters Point cottage took a bizarre twist early yesterday afternoon when Seana Huizenga from Chicago happened upon skeletal remains in a wooded area about 20 feet from the shore of Buggs Island Lake.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Shortly after arriving at the cabin, located in the Buffalo Junction area, Huizenga and her brother, Alleyn Harned of Harrisonburg, walked down the path to the beach below the cabin, where they collected wood and prepared a bonfire. They planned to toast S’mores last night.

Harned walked back up to the cabin with several young members of the extended family, but Huizenga stayed behind to explore further down the beach, where interesting debris such as basketballs and driftwood often washes ashore.

She was carrying her son, Toby, 1-1/2 years old.

“I went back there and saw this great big white bone,” she said later as dusk and a gentle ran began to fall at the cabin.

“I knew I was looking at a femur. I looked and there was a skull, a pelvis. I marched myself right back up to the house. My brother called 911.”

Harned said sheriff’s office personnel arrived in four cars, a crime lab truck, and an SUV. They set up a lab on the beach and investigated at the scene for several hours.

Major James Snead with the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office confirmed the bones were human and said the discovery will be shipped to the state medical examiner in Richmond for analysis. “It was complete decomposition, down to the skeletal remains,” said Snead.

Deputies taped off the wooded area where Huizenga had found the bones and told the family to not disturb the site or light a bonfire on the nearby beach.

“We were berry picking this morning in Durham and then bombed up here for a night,” Huizenga said.

She is scheduled to fly out of RDU today.

Huizenga said the family had spent the previous week in North Carolina visiting their grandparents in Chapel Hill and vacationing at Topsail Beach.

The rustic cabin with views of the lake through the trees has been a family vacation spot since the mid-1970s when their grandparents acquired the property. Their dad, Richard Harned — who was visiting from Columbus, Ohio — and his brothers now own the vacation spot.

A perfect place to just relax, the cabin on Poodle Lane is stocked with a library of mystery books.

The family, however, never expected to find a mystery unfolding at their wooded retreat.

“I hope this [the investigation] helps somebody, instead of what happened here just being unexplained forever,” Huizenga said.

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