BUNKER HILL — The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis deactivated Friday afternoon, with police saying human remains found by teenagers in a wooded area south of Royal Lakes in Macoupin County are likely those of a man missing for almost four years.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday, the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area of Illinois 159 near Prairie Dell Road in reference to the discovery of human skeletal remains. Teenagers playing in the woods reportedly made the discovery and told their parents, who in turn called the sheriff’s office.
Evidence discovered at the scene by investigators from the Macoupin County Sheriff and Coroner’s offices led them to believe the individual likely died as the result of a homicide. The Major Case Squad was activated and investigated the discovery. The squad conducted its investigation out of the Bunker Hill Police Department. The victim’s identity is still unknown, but an initial examination of the remains by a forensic pathologist and an Illinois State Police anthropologist suggests the remains are those of an African-American male.
In the spring of 2012, the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office took a report of a missing person in the area just north of the site where the skeletal remains were discovered. That missing person was identified as Joseph Wilson, age 24 at the time of his disappearance. Investigators can’t confirm the remains found in this incident are those of Wilson but are considering that as a strong possibility. Macoupin County Coroner Brad Targhetta worked in conjunction with the Major Case Squad and is coordinating DNA extraction and identification efforts as they relate to the skeletal remains.
A total of 21 Major Case Squad investigators from 19 police, sheriff’s and coroner’s offices aided in the investigation. More than 50 leads were investigated in the five-day activation. The Illinois State Police Forensic Crime Services Unit and the all-volunteer St. Louis Gateway Search Dogs Unit played a major role in processing and searching the discovery site. The two-day search effort covered a large rural wooded area.
Macoupin County State’s Attorney Jennifer Watson worked closely with the Major Case Squad during the activation, and has been briefed on the investigative findings. Those findings include information related to the disappearance of Wilson. Further investigative or possible criminal proceedings are pending the results of the DNA identification efforts.
“The Major Case Squad as well as Sheriff Shawn Kahl would like to thank the residents of Royal Lakes and Bunker Hill for their cooperation and assistance in this investigation,” a Major Case Squad press release states.
Anyone having information related to Joseph Wilson or the discovery of the skeletal remains is asked to contact the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office at (217) 854-3135.