Fifteen years ago, a familiar scenario unfolded. In September 2006, a woman’s body was found by hunters on remote game lands in Charlotte City State.
The discovery sparked a four-day search of the immediate area that included a forensic investigation team, the FBI, and several law enforcement agencies that ultimately led to the identification of Yolanda Bindics, who had been missing for two years.
Today, Chautauqua County officials are awaiting the results of forensic experts after the discovery of skeletal remains from two women this week in the city of Portland.
A team from the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., Are working to identify the bodies using dental records and DNA. The first set of remains were found after a hiker discovered a human skull on Sunday evening near a trail off Woleben Road in Portland. During the excavation of the site the next day, Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone said MPs came across another set of remains nearby.
“The discovery of two discovered bodies, in particular the fact that it was rather obvious that there was a certain amount of time between the bodies which were placed there, is a new experience for me” Quattrone said Wednesday. “We hope they will have results soon, but with two bodies it could be longer.”
Local investigators on Tuesday received help from New York State Rangers and recruits from Sheriff’s Academy to coordinate a grid search of the wooded area near part of the Chautauqua Rails to Trails where the remains were found in what the sheriff said appeared to be shallow graves.
“Teamwork is absolutely imperative for this and most investigations”, Quattrone spoke about the multi-agency effort. “I sometimes worry about naming those who are involved for fear of missing someone or an agency because there are so many moving parts and we have so many different agencies.
“The Mercyhurst Forensic Anthropology team is an invaluable resource. His expertise and his willingness to work on this type of investigation are a precious asset for our agency and for our entire community. Dr (Dennis) Dirkmaat and his team at Mercyhurst not only spent many hours at the scene, but will also assess any forensic evidence that can be found in the remains.
“Our local law enforcement agencies and New York State Police were very responsive and helpful in providing manpower to the scene and sharing their investigative files to from all open cases they have. In addition, the FBI actively assisted with manpower and federal resources to assist. “
At present, Quattrone said investigators were reviewing cases of missing persons, including Patricia Laemmerhirt, who went missing in April 1976; Lori Cela Bova, who disappeared in June 1997; and Corrie Anderson, who disappeared 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 when she was last seen. According to newspaper clippings in the Post-Journal, in September 1993 teams 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 at around 10:30 p.m. on June 7, 1997, when she, her husband, sister and brother-in-law went to dinner at the Red Lobster on Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood. Tyrone Bova told police he and Lori had an argument a few hours after their meal, around 2 a.m., prompting her to go out for a walk which she never returned to.
Anderson, who worked part-time at the Jamestown Community College library, was last seen on October 28, 2008, leaving the former Lake County Dodge car dealership on Washington Street in Jamestown after visiting her boyfriend. Police know that she returned home after leaving the compound because some items were inside her residence. Her family contacted the police after they failed to pick up their son from school and meet his teacher.
“We are reviewing all of our missing persons cases and using dental records and DNA to assess whether any of the bodies found are from Chautauqua County,” Quattrone said. “In addition, we are investigating neighboring counties and states to see if they have any missing persons cases that could match the remains that we have found.
“I can’t begin to imagine the pain and anxiety that the families of the missing and we hope we can quickly determine the identity of the remains and have a closure for two of the families. It is also important to know that even if the cases are not resolved, we have investigators who regularly review and look for other avenues to hopefully resolve the cases. “