Man charged after bone frag­ments found

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Holly Zachariah hzachariah@dis­ @hol­lyzachariah

The Pike County sher­iff's of­fice has charged a man with abuse of a corpse and tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence in con­nec­tion with hu­man bone frag­ments that in­ves­ti­ga­tors found in a burn pile last week while search­ing for a miss­ing woman from south­ern Ohio.

They can­not yet say with cer­tainty, how­ever, that the bones found are those of 77-year-old Ber­nice Hayslip, who hasn't been seen or heard from since Au­gust 2016. Pike County Deputy Wil­liam Stans­berry said in­ves­ti­ga­tors are await­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion of that sus­pi­cion.

Bran­don Friend, 24, of Pee­bles, ap­peared in Pike County Court on Wed­nes­day morn­ing to an­swer to the two felony charges. A judge set his bond at $40,000 cash.

A week ago, sher­iff's in­ves­ti­ga­tors searched two prop­er­ties in ru­ral Pike County look­ing for clues in the dis­ap­pear­ance and pre­sumed death of Hayslip. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion started after the neigh­bor­ing High­land County sher­iff's of­fice passed along in­for­ma­tion that a deputy re­ceived dur­ing a traf­fic stop that in­di­cated Hayslip may have been the vic­tim of a homi­cide.

She had never been re­ported miss­ing, and money from her re­tire­ment and So­cial Se­cu­rity de­posits was be­ing used, Stans­berry said. He said he is meet­ing with some of Hayslip's rel­a­tives Thurs­day to get more in­for­ma­tion about why she has never been re­ported miss­ing.

Her daugh­ter, 44-year-old Tracy Sowards, was ar­rested and charged last week with mis­use of a credit card in con­nec­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. On Tues­day, a charge of re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty was added. Stans­berry said that dur­ing ques­tion­ing last week, Sowards ad­mit­ted to hav­ing Hayslip's credit cards in her purse.

Sowards is be­ing held on a $20,000 bond.

Deputies last week also ar­rested Sowards' ex-boyfriend, 49-year-old Johnny M. Kerns. He is be­ing held on a pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion.

Stans­berry said Friend and Kerns are ac­quain­tances.

The prop­er­ties searched were a res­i­dence in the 2700 block of Hack­leshin Road in Latham, which was Kerns' cur­rent ad­dress and Sowards home for a time, and a trailer and prop­erty at 2345 Lap­perell Road. The lat­ter is where the bones were found in the burn pile.

Pike County Coro­ner David Kessler had brought in a team of foren­sic an­thro­pol­o­gists from Penn­syl­va­nia to as­sist in the search, and the Ohio Bureau of Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and ca­daver dogs also as­sisted.


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