By ERIN BECK
GAULEY BRIDGE, W.Va. — Human remains found Tuesday night in the Kanawha Falls area near Gauley Bridge may be those of a woman who has been missing since 1979, investigators say.
Fayette sheriff’s deputies said a person searching for arrowheads in the Kanawha Falls area across the Kanawha River from Glen Ferris discovered a human skull instead.
In a phone interview, Capt. Jim Sizemore with the sheriff’s office said he spent most of Tuesday night on the phone with retired deputies. Based on a rough estimate that the bones are 30 to 40 years old, he believes the remains may belong to Sue Roop, who was 30 when she went missing in 1979. On Feb. 12 of that year, she wrote a note to her three children, telling them to go to a neighbor’s if she wasn’t home when they returned from school. She took no clothes from her home in Bentree and left a pocketbook with money inside. Her husband, Raymond Roop, who later served time in prison for the murder of 71-year-old Charles R. Wood, was widely seen as a suspect.
“There’s not a guarantee by any means, until we get a DNA comparison and X-rays and do a full investigation, but it’s a possibility because she is the only missing person we have in that area that fits in that time frame,” Sizemore said.
Sheriff-elect Mike Fridley had said in a statement earlier in the day that it was too early to release much information.
“We know the bones are human, and appear to have been buried in a shallow grave as opposed to having been randomly scattered through animal depredation,” he said. “The initial analysis of the bones indicates they have been buried for several years, but not longer than 50 years, ruling out the probability that this is an old Native American or Civil War grave site. Investigators are considering this as a homicide investigation at this time.”
The remains will be taken to the chief medical examiner’s office to determine the identity of the victim and the cause and manner of death.
“Investigators have recovered some teeth, and there is sufficient biological material to permit DNA analysis and comparison from the remains,” Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah said in a statement.
The sheriff and prosecutor’s office said if authorities determine the death was a homicide, they will continue to investigate.
“When it comes to murder, there is no statute of limitations on the filing of criminal charges. We don’t forgive, we don’t forget and we never give up. We owe this to the victim and the victim’s family members,” the statement said.
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