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Archive for Monday, April 1, 2002

Father waits nearly a year for KBI to confirm if body is that of his missing son

April 1, 2002

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Leon Huffman lives in a quiet corner of Douglas County. But the grisly discovery of a body on his property nearly a year ago continues to haunt him  and authorities still don't know the identity of the victim.

It's one of at least two cases left over from 2001 in which positive identifications of bodies discovered within Douglas County have not been made.

A body that was discovered almost a year ago still has not been identified by authorities.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it could be the middle of April before positive identification is made on the body found on Huffman's land in a remote rural area of northwest Douglas County.

The body was found on April 14, 2001, under chunks of concrete off of East 225 Road, a quarter-mile north of 2190 Road.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the KBI are investigating the case as a homicide.

"We're making progress," said Kyle Smith, KBI spokesman.

That's little comfort to Huffman. He hasn't been able to shake the eerie feeling of knowing someone disposed of a body on his property.

"It makes you feel pretty uncomfortable," Huffman said last week. "This is a dead-end road and it's pretty remote so you don't know who might have come in here and done this."

And it was last July when Lawrence Police discovered a body in a house at 800 Conn. Though police think they know the identity, positive identification has not been made. Police say no foul play is suspected.

What's taking so long?

In both cases the bodies were so badly decomposed that special DNA testing processes were required to make identification.

The body near Lecompton required mitochondrial DNA analysis. Mitochondria is found inside the nucleus of a cell and doesn't break down. The FBI's crime lab in Washington initially was to do the analysis, but the FBI subsequently turned the job over to a private lab, Smith said.

In the case of the body in the house, what's called reverse DNA testing is being conducted, Lawrence Police officials said. DNA samples from possible relatives had to be taken and then matched with DNA from the body. Police say they have no idea when identification will be made.

Last fall Dale Miller, Topeka, contacted the Journal-World saying he was certain the body discovered near Lecompton was that of his son, Dale Alan Miller. He said he thought his son was murdered because of possible involvement with drugs.

Miller also expressed anger at the slowness of the investigation. Last week, however, he tempered his criticism. He said an FBI agent told him recently an identification was expected in four or five weeks.

"They're definitely working on it," he said. "As soon as they get an identification, I think they'll move forward with the case."

The KBI and sheriff won't comment on Miller.

Shortly after the discovery of the body at 800 Conn., Jaunita Jimenez, Lawrence, told the Journal-World she was certain the body was that of her niece, Debra Jackson, 48. Jackson, she said, had become a recluse.

Jimenez, who worked in the office at St. John the Evangelist Church, 1229 Vt., died in December. She was the only relative of Jackson living in or near Lawrence.

In addition to seeing justice served, Miller said he wants to see that his son's remains finally get a proper resting place.

"I'm going to put his ashes in Rochester Cemetery (Topeka) next to his mother," he said.

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