BROOKEVILLE — Local residents needn’t be concerned about any imminent threats to their safety despite the discovery of human remains in a shallow grave last week, the Montgomery County Police 4th District commander said on Monday evening, Nov. 20, to approximately 40 people at a community meeting held at the Salem United Methodist Church.
"There is no direct threat to our community that I'm aware of," Captain M.R. Yamada said, while speaking to Brookeville residents who attended the meeting.
The remains were discovered on Sunday, Nov. 12 by a local resident while walking his dog in a wooded area behind the church. Police said the man alerted them to the human skeletal remains – which police discovered in a shallow grave – after deciding to investigate why his dog kept going off into the woods from the path.
The remains are now under examination by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, but the race or gender of the remains is still undetermined, as cause, manner and time of death.
When Yamada – who has lived in Brookeville since 1988 – began taking questions, residents first wanted to know how long the identification process would take.
"I don't know," Yamada said. "There are no open missing persons in Montgomery County that would be a possibility, especially in this area. There is no information that leads me to believe it has anything to do with our county."
Yamada said the bones and other evidence gathered at the site would be analyzed and entered into a national database that also has international reach.
"It might be a while before anything definitive is found," Yamada said.
A resident asked about a missing person case from the Woodbine area in neighboring Howard County. Yamada said police ruled that out.
Another resident said it seemed obvious a person would have to be familiar with the area where the body was buried because it's so deep in the woods.
"It would be conjecture to say they would have to have known the area," Yamada responded.
However, Yamada revealed some preliminary details in the investigation.
Yamada said there are five houses off a driveway in a neighborhood that backs onto the wooded area where the grave was found.
"They wouldn't have been able to get to the location from the residential side," he said
Yamada said the likely scenario is that they entered from Georgia Avenue.
Quinn Anderson, 73, said he saw yellow crime scene tape at the bottom of the cemetery within a day of the discovery of the bones.
"It was daytime," Anderson said. "Police were there for several hours. I knew something was going on."
Yamada also indicated he thought more than one person was involved with the burial.
"It wasn't just a shallow impression," Yamada said of the grave. "It was maybe a foot-and-a-half deep. It would have taken significant effort. It could have been just one person, but it probably would have required two or more people."
Another man in the audience said he was concerned the burial was related to gang activity. He referenced a torture and murder that took place along Mt. Zion Road in the past that was found to be gang-related. The road is within two miles of Brookeville.
"My concern is Brookeville is going to become another dumping ground for gangs again," he said to Yamada.
Yamada said the possibilities surrounding the motive behind the burial are endless right now. He said other items of evidence were taken from the area to the medical examiner's office, but he claimed not to have any knowledge of what was found.
"I don't know what other evidence was found," he said, when asked about fabrics or clothing found with the body.
Town residents seemed dissatisfied after the meeting, but were grateful for efforts made by the police to respond to their concerns.
"I'm happy we came so he could tell us nothing," Debbie Wagner, said. "It's great to know what you don't know."
"There are still so many unanswered questions and some concern about safety," Trish Cope said.
"There was nothing new," retired postmaster Wayne Harding said. "He gave us the information we had."
Yamada said somebody missing has been found and he hopes a family comes forward to claim the remains after they've been identified so they can have a proper burial.
Salem United Methodist Church offered to be the burial site for the remains if one was needed.
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Montgomery County Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 or contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1-866-411 TIPS (8477).