ELYRIA — Investigators reported that they found human remains in a wooded area off Mussey Avenue on Thursday, and the county coroner has begun the process of identifying whose they are.
For much of the day, Mussey Avenue in Elyria was closed between West Avenue and West River Road as agents in white hazardous-material suits walked in and out of the woods, discussing the investigation.
The site has been frequently investigated in the past few months in connection with the March 30, 2015, disappearance of 19-year-old Tierra Bryant from a Middleburg Heights motel.
Bryant was last seen in the company of Rashan Hunt, 30. Bryan reportedly called for a ride from a friend, and a police report said Bryant never came out of the motel when the friend arrived and was reported missing the next day.
Hunt was arrested in California last month and pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges of voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, offenses against a human corpse and obstructing official business.
At one point during Thursday’s investigation, Bryant’s great-aunt,Margaret Johnson, walked over to the scene holding hands with her granddaughters.
“We need closure. I mean, we don’t want it to end this way, but we definitely need closure,” Johnson said. “We’ve been hoping for the best, trusting God, but we just need closure now.”
Late in the afternoon Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans confirmed that the remains found at the site are human.
“The investigation is ongoing. The FBI is still digging. We don’t have a complete body,” Evans said. “Soft tissue has been destroyed, so we’re dealing with fragments of bone.”
Evans said the remains were found about four feet deep and are not enough to determine the body’s gender or provide other indentifying clues.
Evans was hopeful that the dig would turn up teeth so the FBI could check dental records but said it’s more likely that the coroner’s office will have to send out the remains for DNA testing, which could take weeks.
“It’s a slow process,” Evans said.
Middleburg Heights Police Chief John Maddox said the investigation also is proceeding slowly to keep any potential evidence from being damaged.
“They’re being very meticulous,” Maddox said. “It’s a lot of digging, and they have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb given the evidentiary value of what we might find there.”
Investigators were at the site previously at the end of June and walked through the woods with Hunt in handcuffs and a hooded jacket over his head.
Maddox said the remains were found in the area where the Hunt led them and on Thursday investigators found a circular break in the ground that could be consistent with a body buried there two years ago.
Maddox and Evans both thanked the FBI for their help and said none of this would have been possible without their continued involvement.”
“Its’ definitely still under investigation,” Evans said. “We have a long way to go yet.”
Authorities were preparing to take down barricades on the road about 7:30 p.m.
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