PORTLAND — An investigation that kicked off Sunday evening when a body was found in a wooded area in the town of Portland ramped up after a second set of human remains were recovered.
Several agencies, including the FBI and Lakewood-Busti Police Department, are now assisting the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff James Quattrone said it was too early to tell whether the events leading up to the discoveries are related. However, asked if the Sheriff's Office was treating the recovery of human remains — both found near a trail off Woleben Road in Portland — as suspicious, Quattrone responded, "Absolutely."
Investigators were searching the area of the Alison Wells Ney Nature Trail of the Chautauqua Rails to Trails system after a person looking for lost items from a previous hike came across what appeared to be a human skull. An initial analysis by the Mercyhurst Anthropology Lab in Erie, Pa., found that the remains were likely of a woman and that they had been at the location for some time.
A follow-up search Monday night led to the discovery of a second set of remains and confirmed Tuesday morning to be human.
"As a result of an area search in the area of Woleben Road we have located the remains of a second body," Quattrone told The Post-Journal. "At this time we have no idea on gender or timeline on how long body has been here. We do believe that the second body was left at the location much more recently."
Quattrone did say that "foul play" is suspected regarding the second set of human remains found but did not elaborate. "The first (set of remains), we are awaiting some forensic reports," Quattrone said of a possible cause of death.
Asked of the investigation, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt released the following statement: "We are closely watching the situation and have been on scene to review the investigation as evidence has developed. I can't comment any further at this point for fear of compromising the investigation as new information becomes available."
Quattrone said investigators will compare dental records with known missing person cases in the area. Among the most well-known cases locally involve Corrie Anderson, who went missing in October 2008; Lori Ceci Bova, who went missing in June 1997; and Patricia Laemmerhirt, who went missing in April 1976.
Laemmerhirt resided with her husband and children on North Portage Street in Westfield — about 6 miles from Woleben Road in Portland. She was 27 years old when she was last seen. According to press clippings from The Post-Journal, crews in September 1993 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 around 10:30 p.m. on June 7, 1997, when she, her husband, her sister and her brother-in-law went to dinner at Red Lobster on Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood. Tyrone Bova told police that he and Lori had gotten into an argument hours after that meal, around 2 a.m., prompting her to go out for a walk for which she never returned.
Anderson, who worked a part-time job at the Jamestown Community College library, was last seen Oct. 28, 2008, leaving the former Lake County Dodge car dealership on Washington Street in Jamestown after visiting her boyfriend. Police know she made it home after leaving the dealership because certain items were located inside her residence. Her family contacted police after she failed to pick up her son from school and meet with his teacher to go over plans for a Halloween party.
Vicki Acquisto, Anderson's mother, told The Post-Journal she was contacted by authorities Monday shortly before word of the first discovery was made public. She was told identification could take more than a week.
"When something like this happens," Acquisto said of receiving the news, "all of the memories come flooding back. ... It's hard, very hard."
Acquisto has relied heavily on her faith since Anderson went missing. She said it has helped her cope with her daughter's disappearance.
She's also pained knowing there are other parents out there with missing children. "It's heartbreak, to whoever is out there," she said. "That person has a family."