GALLIPOLIS — Human remains involved in a contentious dismemberment case which started with the discovery of a body in West Virginia and then tied to the disappearance of a Gallia County woman have made their way back to Ohio for examination.
According to Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins and Assistant Prosecutor Britt Wiseman, after the remains had been processed and studied by the West Virginia Medical Examiner since their initial discovery in late August, they were taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office in the last week for final examination and autopsy efforts. The pair expect they will have final biological data within 30 days to decide whether to push forward with potentially new charges or to continue pursuing the case as it currently stands. West Virginia’s testing and research with the remains have reportedly completed.
Richard Hurt, 47, of Gallipolis, currently faces third-degree felony tampering of evidence and fifth-degree felony abuse of a corpse in Ohio. Hurt pleaded not guilty to both charges in previous court hearings. He also faces a charge of concealment of a deceased human body in West Virginia.
According to court records, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted authorities July 30 in Mason County, W.Va., with the discovery of a dismembered human body. During the investigation, Hurt reportedly told investigators he and a recently reported missing Gallia County woman, Jessica Berry, 32 at the time (she would have been 33 on Sept. 20), of Gallipolis, were at a residence on White Road in Gallia County on or about July 19. Berry allegedly overdosed on narcotics at the location.
Hurt also allegedly said he used a saw to dismember Berry’s remains, placed them in trash bags and transported those remains in his vehicle for roughly one and a half days before taking them to Mason County, where he buried the remains on private property.
Hurt reportedly said he disposed of Berry’s clothing and the saw in the trash that was collected by a local garbage service. Court records state Hurt said he knew the items would end up at the local landfill.
The Daily Tribune has previously reported Berry’s disappearance. Records further state Hurt had supposedly provided a false statement to Gallia County deputies in regards to Berry’s initial disappearance.
West Virginia authorities had possessed the remains until recently. Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is still investigating the matter and looking into leads as well as assisting the Gallia Sheriff’s Office to see if other crimes had been committed other than those with which Hurt has been charged.
“We expect the final toxicology and autopsy reports will be forwarded to BCI in the next 30 days,” Adkins said. “BCI is continuing to investigate the matter and still checking leads. We don’t normally talk about cases like this in the middle, but we feel people want to know why it seems like nothing else has happened. That’s because it takes a while in some of these cases. BCI has continually followed up with leads.”
Both Wiseman and Adkins said they have been in contact with the Berry family and BCI officials on a constant basis as they look for case updates.
“We want to make sure that the public knows that we’re not sitting on these results and waiting,” Wiseman said. “We are literally waiting for the experts to do what they do and sometimes it takes a lot longer than normal. We’re hopeful that we will get those reports soon. People need to understand that we have to have a thorough understanding of a cause of death. It’s an essential element for any investigation like this. We need to do our due diligence in letting Montgomery County take their time in processing the evidence.”
Adkins said Ohio authorities are seeing to their own tests and proceedings of the remains to make certain nothing is overlooked.
Hurt was released after posting bond in late September upon paying roughly $5,000 in accordance with a $50,000 ordered bond in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas by Judge Dean Evans, with a 10 percent surety. Hurt has a jury trial scheduled Jan. 18, 2017.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.