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Hunters find scorched vehicle, human remains near MS line
Hunters find scorched vehicle, human remains near MS line
  • Ward believed to have been found after missing 89 days


Arthur Ward

Article contributed by The Journal Record

News Editor
HAMILTON - Law enforcement officials are saying that remains found within a burnt vehicle may belong to a missing 69-year-old Choctaw County senior citizen, Arthur Lawrence Ward, who went missing in October.
Marion County Sheriff Kevin Williams said that on Saturday, Jan. 5,  the Marion County Sheriff’s Department received a call from Vernon resident Shawn Gottwald that he and a group of hunters had come across a completely-burned vehicle in a remote and deeply wooded area while deer hunting.
The vehicle was a quarter of a mile off of an intersection on Reedy Branch Road, on private hunting land, only a few miles from the Mississippi State Line. Williams said that though the vehicle was in Marion County, the road has a Vina address.
Deputy sheriffs responded to the call and ran a search on the vehicle’s identification number. The results showed that the vehicle was a gray 2003 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, tag number TJM205 and listed Ward as the owner.
A National Crime Information Center (NCIC) report informed the deputies that there was an active missing persons alert issued for Ward, after which they discovered human skeletal remains both inside and outside the vehicle and contacted investigators.
According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s report, Ward was last seen leaving his residence in Butler on Oct. 8, heading for Meridian, Miss., to purchase tractor parts.
The sheriff said that information on Ward indicated that he was a severe diabetic and possibly struggled with early symptoms of dementia. He reportedly left his residence on Oct. 8 without his medication.
Williams said that according to Ward’s cell phone data, the man was in fact in Meridian. However, his location was later pinged in Potts Camp, Miss., and lastly at a location south of Birmingham.
According to the sheriff, investigators were unable to track his phone from there and believe it may have died.
How Ward’s vehicle came to Marion County will have to be answered through more investigation, Williams said.
“We have a lot of unanswered questions,” Williams said.
According to Google Maps, travelling Ward’s known route in order is roughly a 511-mile trip and would take at least eight hours.
The Alabama State Fire Marshals Office, Alabama Forestry Commission and the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department all appeared at the scene to assist in the investigation. A private firm from Columbus, Miss., was also brought to provide cadaver canine units.
Lamar County Forester Karl Byrd provided the use of a forest bulldozer to help recover the vehicle from the woods.
After a complete search of the vehicle and the area, Williams said that no evidence was found to immediately help those involved with the case understand why Ward may have been there or what the source of the fire was.
Williams believes that with Jan. 5 being the 89th day of Ward missing, vermin were the probable cause for the remains being both in and outside of vehicle.
The sheriff said a direction in the case awaits results from an investigation being done by deputy fire marshall Jason Clifton.
Williams did say that investigators are treating this as a suspicious case.
A deputy with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office delivered the remains that were found to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science to perform a DNA analysis and give final confirmation on the identity of the remains.
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