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updated: 4/14/2010 10:54 AM

Human remains found in DuPage Co. forest preserve

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  • Investigators search Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton Tuesday after human bones were discovered.

      Investigators search Herrick Lake Forest Preserve near Wheaton Tuesday after human bones were discovered.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

A Wheaton man gathering mushrooms Tuesday in a DuPage County Forest Preserve stumbled upon human skeletal remains in "a scene straight out of C.S.I."

Jerry Moretti of Wheaton was walking through the Herrick Lake Forest Preserve off Butterfield Road near Wheaton hoping to get an early start on the hunt for morels - a hard-to-find but popular delicacy - when he noticed some shoes and clothes about 20 to 30 yards into the wooded area.

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"The first thing that caught my eye was a pair of shoes and a shirt, and I thought, 'Well, someone's having fun out here,' then I saw the skull and immediately noticed the teeth and said that's a human skull - there's no way that's some kind of animal," he said.

Moretti called 911, who patched him through to forest preserve police, who confirmed that the remains are human.

Hours after the discovery, deputies with the sheriff's forensic unit continued meticulously combing for clues inside the forest preserve.

No new details were available this morning.

"It was apparent that it was there a very long time; the skull was completely bleached white, no matter, nothing on it, so it's been out there a very long time," Moretti said. "I found out from talking to deputies after that they did find the remainder of the remains scattered around the area as well."

After the initial crime-scene investigation is complete, the bones will be taken Wednesday to the coroner's office in an attempt to learn an identity. Authorities confirmed that the skeletal remains are severely decomposed and absent human tissue.

"There's not a whole lot to go on at this point," Coroner Pete Siekmann said. "The remains will be examined, X-rayed, and we'll have a forensic dentist look at the teeth and go from there."

Although some weathered clothing was recovered, the scene revealed few obvious clues about the person's gender, identity or how he or she died, officials said. DuPage State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said it may take days before more is known. There are unsolved reports of local missing persons but, Birkett said, it's not uncommon if foul play was involved for a body to be dumped far from where the crime occurred.

"You treat it as a crime scene until proven otherwise," Birkett said.

Stephanie McNeil, the sister of John Michael Spira, a St. Charles man who was last seen in February 2007, believes his disappearance is a homicide case and is hopeful that the remains found Tuesday are her brother's.

"Just learned someone found a body in DuPage County, Lake Herrick Forest Preserve. That was one we hadn't searched and it's not far from John's office. I'm hoping so much that it's my brother this time and we can move onto the justice phase of this whole nightmare," she wrote in a post on johnspira.com Tuesday night.

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