WHEELING - Human bones found April 14 by hikers outside an abandoned house have been identified as those of David Bazo, 50, an Ohio County native.
During a news conference Monday, Sheriff Pat Butler, Sgt. Doug Ernest and Lt. Detective Joe Cuchta said a forensic investigation conducted by the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., revealed Bazo was murdered.
''We're not going to release the cause of the death, but it was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner,'' Cuchta said, adding the state and his department were relying on the Smithsonian's expertise.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Ohio County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Doug Ernest, left, Sheriff Pat Butler and Lt. Detective Joe Cuchta reveal David Bazo, 50, was murdered. His remains were identified by Smithsonian forensic anthropologists.
Bazo grew up in the Table Rock Lane area and also attended high school in Ohio County, though the officers are not sure which one. He later moved to Florida and had been living in the Sarasota-Bradenton area with his wife and children. In August 2011, he came back to visit his parents in Wheeling and when he did not return to Florida, he was reported missing by his family.
His mother has since died and his father, Joseph Bazo, now lives in Fort Myers, Fla. A brother and sisters also still live in Florida.
''They attempted to call a couple agencies. The problem was he was living in Florida and went missing in Wheeling and where he would have been missing from was an issue and caused him not to be put in the (National Crime Information Center) database,'' Cuchta said.
He described details of the investigation as ''sketchy,'' adding he hoped people would come forward with information.
''We don't have any suspects at his point,'' Cuchta said.
Butler said he does not believe local residents should be concerned for their safety because of this homicide.
''I don't feel there is a psychopath out there. We don't see it that way,'' Butler said.
The officers noted Bazo did not have a criminal history and that it appears his family life was a good one. Ernest noted the abandoned farmhouse on Stone & Shannon Road was located at least a half-mile from any other home in the area. Butler said deputies had to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach the house, believed to be empty since 2003 - the latest date of the mail found there. Cuchta said it would be ''purely speculation'' to say whether Bazo died at the house or was first killed at another location.
At the time of the August 2011 visit to Wheeling, Bazo's parents were living somewhere on Eoff Street. Butler said he did not want to release the exact address of the abandoned house because it still is considered a crime scene.
''The first thing we have to do is track his activity the last few days (of his life) and try and determine what happened,'' Cuchta said.
The Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology has helped law enforcement and medical examiners analyze remains to discover a person's cause of death and identity since 1903.