Thursday, June 30, 2005

Body Found By Teens Is Still Unidentified

Jun 30, 2005 -- The Loudoun Sheriff’s Office has not received a positive identity from the medical examiner of a body four teenagers found June 10 in an old building near Hillsboro.
Last week, the sheriff’s office said it believes the body is that of William Sims, 50, of Gainesville, who has been missing since October 2003. Sims was visiting a relative in Purcellville before he disappeared. The Purcellville Police Department said Sims walked away from the relative’s home and that he was depressed, delusional and had a heart condition.

The body was found by a group of teenagers that was playing a game of Airsoft, which is similar to paintball, near the old, shed-like two-story building. The body was hanging from a rope tied to the man’s neck.

The structure has since been razed by the owner of the property, who lives out of state.

At about 7:30 p.m. June 10, Chaz Langston, 14, of Lovettsville, said the group was using the building as a fort. He said there was a very strong odor but they thought it was just a dead animal. On the bottom level, he said there was a big room with two couches and an old mattress. A cabinet had a beer can inside that “looked somewhat recent,” and a shelf below it had a dusty six-pack of beer with two empty cans. In an adjacent room, he said there was a remote-control car that had been taken apart and street signs. A porch connected to the structure was littered with items such as a scooter, a lawn mower and a bike with a basket.

“That was the first time I had been there,” Langston said. “My friends said it looked like some of the stuff had been moved around.”

Langston said he wanted to hide in the upstairs loft but he could not find a way to get up there. One boy in the group was able to reach up to the latch that opened an attic-like door, but Langston said it took a couple of minutes to actually get the door to open. Once open, he said he saw a hand.

“I thought it was a Halloween costume,” he said. Curious to see what it really was, Langston said the teens lifted each other up into the attic space and it was then they all realized they had found a dead person. To be sure, Langston said he poked the body with his gun. He couldn’t tell the nationality of the man and he said the body was already well decomposed.

Langston said the space where the body was found was small and shaped like a triangle. At its highest, he estimated it was maybe 6 feet 6 inches high. The clothes the man was wearing were dusty, he said, and he noticed that the man’s knees were almost touching the ground.

“I didn’t think he could have done this to himself,” Langston said. “His knees were close enough where he could have touched the ground.”

Langston also wondered how the man found the building off Ballenger Lane because it was surrounded by trees.

Spokesman Kraig Troxell said the sheriff’s office was waiting until it had a positive identity on the body before it released any information about the incident. When the information was discovered by the press, Troxell said that investigators found evidence that led them to believe this was a suicide, not a homicide. He said investigators believe the body had been in the building for about two years.

“Once the investigation of the crime scene was complete the structure was released back to the property owner as we would in any investigation,” he said. “We are comfortable and confident with the evidence we had collected on that day.”

Langston said once he and his friends realized it was a body, they ran from the building to the home of one of the teens, where they told the parents. Several adults returned to the scene, he said, and then called police.

A specialist had to be called to review the man's dental records which has resulted in a delay of the final autopsy report, Troxell said.

In the article to appear in Leesburg Today's July 1 edition, the final paragraph should have stated that the autopsy report is delayed because a specialist had to be called to inspect dental records. Although there is a backlog of cases at the Fairfax medical examiner's office, it is not the reason for the delay of the autopsy in this case.

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