Grad students renew search for missing Gordon man
FRACKVILLE - It was like a scene from the television series "Bones."
A group of forensic anthropology students from Erie spent Saturday morning lending their support to an effort to bring the case of a missing Gordon man to an end.
The 12-plus graduate students from Mercyhurst College joined members of the Schuylkill County Coroner's Office and state police to sys-
tematically search a wooded area of Blythe Township looking for remains of Kevin Lucas who was 33 at the time he was last seen on March 7, 2011.
The more than four hours of searching, however, yielded no new evidence.
On Nov. 2, 2011, a human tibia was found on a ridge on State Game Lands 326, to the east of Route 61 and across Route 61 from where Lucas' vehicle was found on March 18, 2011.
The bone was discovered by a person walking his dog in the area, said state police Cpl. James Cuttitta, head of the criminal investigation unit at the Frackville station.
Cuttitta said that bone was sent to the University of North Texas and tested for DNA along with DNA samples from Lucas' father and brother.
The tests determined that DNA from the bone found in the wooded area was unquestionably that of a male relative of Lucas' father and brother, Cuttitta said.
With this information in hand, troopers approached Schuylkill County Coroner Dr. David Moylan and asked him to issue a death certificate for Kevin Lucas, bringing some closure to his family.
Moylan said that although he had enough evidence to say Lucas was deceased, there were not enough of his remains to determine either a cause or manner of death.
Causes of death can include exposure to heat or cold, drowning, shooting and more, while manners of death are usually classified as accidental or homicide.
With little information to go on about Lucas, Moylan said he contacted Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat of Mercyhurst College to try to gain some assistance in the case.
Dirkmaat reviewed the information gathered by state police as well as photographs of Lucas' tibia bone and agreed to come to Schuylkill County with a group of his graduate students to try to locate other remains that may have been scattered in the wooded area.
Cuttitta said that when the tibia bone was discovered, state police conducted a thorough and exhaustive search of the area but were unable to locate any other bones, items of clothing or personal belongings.
The corporal, who took part in the search along with troopers John F. Burns, Edward Lizewski, John Sleboda and Melissa Kyper, said the case remains open and that any new information or evidence recovered can only help.
Moylan and two of his deputy coroners, Andrew Szczyglak and Chris Mataka, also participated in the search.
Dirkmaat came to Schuylkill County with his team on Friday armed with maps of the area along with GPS settings of the area to be searched.
He said additional remains in the area where the tibia of Lucas was found may not even exist.
"There are factors such as was the bone carried to that location by an animal, a bear, coyote or even a dog," Dirkmaat said. "An animal can carry a bone like this for miles so the place the man died may not even be in that area."
Even though the area was searched thoroughly by state police last year, Dirkmaat said looking again won't hurt because things can be overlooked.
"We will look at 100 percent of the surface, walk shoulder to shoulder and do it systematically," he said.
Moylan said Friday that if no other remains of Lucas are discovered, his office will attempt to see if any toxicology tests can be performed on the tibia leading to a better insight on the man's death.
If that proves unsuccessful, there will be nothing left to do.
"That will be the extent of our investigation and a cause and manner of death would not be determined," the coroner said.