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Trash pile intrigues detective

Forester found stained clothing and other items in brush in 1999

This was no ordinary trash pile in the forested hills above Jacksonville Reservoir.

People often dump household garbage, ancient appliances, fractured furniture and other debris in the city's woodlands, but the crumpled clothing tucked behind some brush caught the eye of a forester, and eventually the attention of investigators in two counties.

But the investigations haven't uncovered the story behind a sheet, two summer dresses, a bra, two striped shop rags, industrial absorbent material and weathered duct tape ' much of it stained by something that could be human blood.

Now detectives are taking the case to the community, hoping that someone will have details that will help them decide whether they have evidence of a violent crime or just some random junk.

I've looked at lots of dumpsites and this is just a unique collection of items, so I want to make an effort, Jackson County sheriff's Detective Colin Fagan said. I hope someone in the community will have another piece of the puzzle that will move the case forward or let us dismiss this all.

— A Jacksonville forester, who asked not to be identified in the newspaper, first spotted the items wadded together in early April 1999 slightly more than a mile northwest of Jacksonville, according to a police report.

A contractor had punched in a rough access road the previous November for fire protection and forest management. The forester told Fagan the clothing hadn't been there when the road was built. The items looked weathered when he discovered them in the spring, but still-visible tire tracks showed a vehicle had backed up to the brush pile, then driven off down the road.

The forester told Fagan that he remembered thinking at the time how strange it was someone would drive to the relatively remote area to dispose of women's clothing.

However, he didn't report the find and gave it little thought for several years. The odd assortment remained undisturbed.

In 2003, he read a article about unsolved murders in Jackson County and wondered whether the tattered items might hold a clue. Encouraged by a friend, he called the sheriff's office, but a report never reached investigators, Fagan said. That fall, the forester noticed the bra was gone, perhaps taken as a joke by a crew working in the area. He moved the other things to a more secluded brush pile nearby.

This March, another article about cold cases, unsolved for more than five years, prompted the forester to call Fagan directly.

The tale piqued the detective's interest and he soon tracked down several unsolved cases the items could be linked to. In November 1996 Kaelin Glazier, a Ruch 15-year-old, disappeared from the area and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others are still investigating. The Grants Pass Public Safety Department had an open 1998 case of a missing woman, Catherine Ann Wallace, 42, who police feared had been murdered.

Fagan and Shawna Carroll, an FBI agent working on the Glazier case, went with the forester in April to the peculiar pile.

They gathered a stained heavy-duty sheet like those at hospitals and motels with a W marked in the corner, two striped shop rags, a black sleeveless sheath dress from the Gap faded by the sun, and a floral-print dress in shades of light purple, gray and white. They also collected weathered strips of duct tape and a sheet of gray absorbent material commonly used at garages to soak up liquids.

Grants Pass Detective Jim Brissette joined them at the Oregon State Police Crime Lab in Central Point later to examine the find.

The sheet, one shop rag and the flowered dress had iron oxide stains consistent with those left by blood, a lab report said. Small, dark stains ranged across the dirty sheet in a curving pattern that suggests it was wrapped around a body.

When you hold it up, it looks like a shroud, he said.

Tests on the stains were inconclusive, though, after so many seasons in the woods.

We tested for hemoglobin, but it was too degraded to tell, if the blood protein ever had been present in the stains, Fagan said. It's not paint. We think they are blood.

Fagan wants to see if search and rescue dogs trained to find bodies will react to the stained materials. If they do, that could indicate the stains are from human blood, he said.

That confirmation could help Fagan convince the state crime lab in Portland to do a difficult test for mitochondrial DNA, a cellular component that can remain after other DNA degrades. Such a test could help identify the blood source.

Search teams including dogs and people already have combed the area where the clothing was found. They located a sock and duct tape.

There was no evidence of a body, Fagan said. It's pretty common for evidence and the body to be dumped separately.

Possible links to the Glazier and Wallace cases haven't panned out. Both those cases remain open.

Investigators concluded the things weren't connected to Glazier.

The clothing might have fit Wallace and appeared in the woods around the time she disappeared, but We have no way to connect it to the case, Brissette said. I was looking for DNA.

The pile could have been dumped by someone passing through and might be linked to a missing person or a far-away crime, Fagan said.

Or it might have a perfectly benign explanation.

If it's nothing, we would like to know that just as well, Fagan said. We won't cite anyone for offensive littering.

We just want to solve this mystery.

Anyone with information related to the items found in the Jacksonville woods can call Jackson County sheriff's Detective Colin Fagan at 774-6815.

These stained and faded items were found wadded up in a forest outside Jacksonville. A local detective wants to find out if they are connected to a violent crime. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven