Sheriff Releases Details of the Facebook Inspired Search for Murder Victim

Updated 1 week ago Edited from a Press Release
Sheriff Releases Details of the Facebook Inspired Search for Murder Victim
Photo Crystal St Clair

July 12, 2017

PRESS RELEASE

On 07-02-17, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the West Virginia State Police in reference to two persons at their office and talking about their property at 23 Township Road 1465 in Chesapeake, OH. The complainant James Hysell and his wife Rebecca Hughes met Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office deputies at the residence. James Hysell claimed that the remains of 2002 Missing Person, Samantha Burns would be found in the large burn pile on their property.

An Agent with the Huntington, West Virginia Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met with the deputy at the residence and interviewed both parties at the scene being a James Hysell and Rebecca Hughes. The FBI Agent and the deputy were shown the property and witnessed the debris of a large burn pile. James Hysell alleged that his wife Rebecca told him details and he claimed that she admitted to several more bodies being burned and buried on the burn pile. Hysell made several allegations. However, Rebecca’s statement was very different.

On 07-03-17, the FBI and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office returned to the property at 23 Township Road 1465 in Chesapeake and photographed the scene and burn pile as shown by Hysell which was untouched. The FBI contacted a Forensic Investigator who specializes in recovery of buried remains who then referred Agents to a Forensic Investigator who specializes in the recovery of buried BURNED remains for their availability.

Agents with the FBI and Investigator’s with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and Huntington Police Department continued interviews with James Hysell and Rebecca Hughes separately. The tip moved from two bodies to four bodies being in the burn pile from Hysell. However, Hughes interview remained consistent from previous statements. The tip regarding Samantha Burns was discredited in the investigation due to the tip referred to Mitchell Vickers being the one seen burning the body. However, Vickers was charged and arrested in 1998 for the Murder of a local news cameraman. Burns was not abducted until 2002.

On 07-05-17, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Investigators and the FBI met with James Hysell at the residence and spoke with him about the numerous claims he was making on social media. The Investigators viewed the property again and witnessed the undisturbed burn piles.

On the morning of 07-06-17, Rebecca Hughes came to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office stating that she was in fear from her husband James Hysell because of threats of harm. Rebecca was assisted by Domestic Violence Advocates to obtain a Protection Order from Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. On 07-06-17, deputies with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office served James Hysell with the Protection Order and he left the property at 23 Township Road 1465 in Chesapeake.

On 07-08-17, Rebecca Hughes came to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and filed a Violation of Protection Order against James Hysell for continued contact and threats made to her through Facebook and text messages. A report was filed and sent to the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office.

On 07-09-17, Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office again went to the property at 23 Township Road 1465 in Chesapeake to view the property and again took photos of the property and burn piles showing that nothing had been disturbed.

On 07-10-17, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office obtained a Search Warrant from Lawrence County Common Pleas Court for the residence and property of Rebecca Hughes and James Hysell at 23 Township Road 1465 in Chesapeake. Rebecca Hughes was asked to meet officers at the property because she had not been staying at the residence.

On 07-10-17, Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Huntington Violent Crimes Task Force, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, and Crime Scene Investigators from the Huntington Police Department executed the Search Warrant. The residence and property were photographed and video documented to show that nothing on the property had been disturbed. Officers and Investigators conducted an extensive dig through the burn piles by hand and sifting the ashes and dirt with forensic tools. Officers and Investigators stopped the search when it became dark. A deputy with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office stayed on the property throughout the night to secure the scene until Officers and Investigators could start again the following morning.

On 07-11-17, Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Huntington Violent Crimes Task Force, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Lawrence Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, and Crime Scene Investigators from the Huntington Police Department continued the search of the property and sifting of burn piles and dirt. An excavator was brought in to dig further into the ground. With the assistance of an Ironton Contractor and his equipment an approximate 20’ X 20’ area was dug to nearly 8 foot deep in the primary burn pile and then a second burn pile was also dug using the equipment. The dirt was witnessed not to contain human remains.

On the evening of 07-11-17, Agents, Investigators, and Officers completed the search of the property. Miscellaneous items had been collected through the entire two day search, however no remains were located. It should be noted that Rebecca Hughes remained with officers through the entire search and was extremely helpful and cooperative throughout the entire investigation.

A special thanks to Riggs Construction of Ironton, Ohio for donating his time and heavy equipment used to complete the search of the property.

Sheriff Jeffery Lawless

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