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November 12, 2012

Remains found near trail

Body may be linked to missing teen

MEYERSDALE — Human remains were found near Meyersdale, Somerset County, on Sunday afternoon, raising speculation that the discovery could be connected to the recent disappearance of a local teenager.

An individual found the remains around 12:30 p.m. when walking in a wooded area in Larimer Township near the Great Allegheny Passage biking and hiking trail.

Pennsylvania State Police officers from Somerset investigated. Then, on Monday, forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat and his crew from Mercyhurst University gathered information from the scene in order to help identify the person and determine a cause of death. Dirkmaat previously served as the primary scientific adviser at the Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

State police provided only a limited amount of information on Monday because of the “sensitivity and nature of this type of evidence collection,” according to a press release. A press conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Somerset barracks.

Rumors have circulated over the past week about a dead body being on the trail.

On Nov. 5, an individual asked, “Is it true that someone was murdered on the bike trail in Meyersdale?” on the WJAC-TV Facebook page. Then, a day later, another reader posed the question: “Anyone hear anything about a possible body being found along the trail in Meyersdale, Somerset County?”

The station’s news director, James Platzer, wasn’t sure why the questions were posed days before police said they found remains.

“We have a lot of questions about how this could be going on for a week and the body’s just found,” Platzer said.

The gender of the remains could not be immediately determined.

Recently, however, a 19-year-old Meyersdale woman went missing in the area.

Justine Marie Jackson was last seen walking along Glade City Road in Summit Township after leaving a residence at about 6 p.m. Sept. 14. Jackson is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs between 130 and 160 pounds. She has straight dark hair, brown eyes and ear piercings, but no other visible piercings or tattoos.

She is described as “quiet and shy” by the state police.

The young woman has not been in contact with friends or loved ones since disappearing, according to Trooper William T. Goins, a criminal investigator, in an article at

The state police did not make any connection between the missing woman and the remains in information released on Monday.

“I know all the media people are asking me (if it is her). ... I should be able to tell you by

1 o’clock (today),” said Trooper Steve Limani, spokesman for the state police public information office in Greensburg.

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