Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ISDP: Tales of the Southern Woods



We don’t usually do ISDP from abroad, but this episode in Australia was too strange and sad to ignore. Reports of a “foul smell” led to the remains of a 22-year-old woman from Redlands, California, which were found 30 feet up in an oak tree in a suburb of Sydney.
Danyane Bowing, 35, who lived next door to the tree, said she thought the woman may have walked through her garden around New Year’s Eve and climbed her fence into the tree.

‘I’m no expert on decomposing bodies in summer time,’ she told the
Sydney Morning Herald. ‘But when I went out around the start of the New Year I remember thinking something smelled dead.’
Always trust your nose, Ms. Bowing.

This reminds us of a story from graduate school told by a herpetologist who spent his summers at a field site near Big Bend National Park. One night a student from a nearby study site went missing. Everyone spent days searching for him, but with no luck. The following year, as the professor’s team was hiking along a canyon trail, an old boot dropped to the ground. Looking up into the tree from which it fell, they saw the remains of the missing student. He had evidently fallen from a switchback higher up on the trail.

From Florida, a state particularly rife with ISDP episodes, comes this report by Austin L. Miller, a staff writer for Ocala.com. The body of what is believed to be a 41-year-old man missing since Christmas was found after a local doctor investigated a lingering foul odor.
Dr. John Williams, owner of Williams Chiropractic, whose business is next to the wooded area, told a Star-Banner reporter that he thought the stench was due to trash from a nearby dumpster. Williams said he asked city officials to clean the dumpster, which they did. But he continued smelling the odor.

On Thursday, Williams said he decided to walk over to the woods to investigate. Seeing the body, he said he called 911, at which point he stopped a police officer who he saw driving past the area.
The circumstances point to a suicide.

Always trust your nose, Dr. Williams.

The very next day, Austin L. Miller filed this report from Citra, Florida, a town about 17 miles north of Ocala:
Authorities said an employee at Oak Lane Farm at 3676 W. County Road 318 was repairing a fence on the property when he smelled a foul odor and walked toward the scent. The worker saw what appeared to be human remains. He retreated and called the Sheriff’s Office.
The remains are those of a male, and police are treating the death as suspicious.

If there were a First Nerve prize for investigative ISDP journalism, Austin L. Miller would be our first nominee. [The PeeEuuLitzer Prize?—Ed.] [He has a nose for news.]

The next story comes from Georgia, where the body of a missing 25-year-old man was discovered in a well. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
A bad odor led a man to discover the body in a well in Oglethorpe County, east of Athens, on Monday morning, GBI spokesman John Bankhead told the AJC.

“He looked in and saw what he thought was a boot or shoe,” Bankhead said. The man called sheriff’s deputies, who later informed the GBI of the discovery.
Autopsy results indicate the deceased man had been shot to death before being dropped into the well.

That telltale smell also led police to the body of a homeless man in Covington, Georgia:
A 60-year-old man was found dead in his tent in the woods behind the Checkers restaurant Wednesday morning after an anonymous caller reported a foul smell coming from a blue tent in the area.
Our last entry is also the only one from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In Mount Vernon, Ohio, a man
was discovered deceased on the floor of his apartment at 10 Walnut St. after another resident had called authorities advising a foul odor in the duplex. Mount Vernon Police and Fire department personnel responded to the scene, and with the assistance of the property manager, entered the room and discovered the body.
We’ll have to comb the archives to be sure, but our impression is that apartment managers are right up there with police officers in bearing the brunt of ISDP discoveries.

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