Human remains found in Middlebury, no foul play suspected

MIDDLEBURY — The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has identified the human remains found in Middlebury last Friday as those of a 28-year-old woman, a Korean national, from Fairfax, Va.
Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley on Wednesday morning said that the cause, manner and date of the woman’s death were as yet undetermined. There is no indication that the woman was subjected to or involved in any unlawful activity leading up to her death, Hanley said in a press release.
None of the police leads indicate there is any danger to the public.
Police did not immediately release the name of the woman.
“We should be able to release the name by tomorrow,” Hanley told the Independent on Wednesday. “We’re dealing with cultural and language issues, and we want to make sure we’ve got notifications covered.”
At 11:43 a.m. this past Friday, Oct. 21, the Middlebury Police Department received a call from a hiker who reported finding a body in the woods between Court Street Extension (Route 7) and Seminary Street Extension.
The police responded to the area and located human remains, which they removed and sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
“This is an area that is frequented by homeless persons, campers, transients and recreational users,” Hanley said.
The Middlebury Police Department Crime Scene Unit was joined on the scene Friday and Saturday by the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Team, Addison County Sheriff’s Department deputies, an assistant state’s attorney and the assistant medical examiner.
Authorities processed the scene and searched for evidence in the death. Based on information developed at the post-mortem exam on Saturday police returned to the scene on Monday to do a further search for minutia.
Police were on scene continuously from shortly before noon on Friday through at least mid-afternoon on Saturday. On Monday, Hanley said police had a team of four officers working full-time on the case, 16 hours a day.
“Our initial crime scene search, processing, and scene protection involved eight of our officers, two deputies from the sheriff’s department and the VSP Crime Scene unit over a 30-hour period,” Hanley said.
Initial identification of the remains was difficult because they had decomposed, Hanley said. That was complicated by apparent animal predation and wear from weather; Hanley said forensic examiners “cannot use DNA.”
Middlebury police is receiving assistance from the Korean Consulate in working with the family for notifications and repatriation of the remains. Relatives of the deceased are currently living in California.
The investigation is proceeding into reconstructing of the young woman’s activities from Virginia to Vermont in an effort to determine cause and manner of her death.

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