Detectives' cemetery search report


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| Investigative Action | Action Description | Initial Findings |


Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department
711 Jackson Avenue E
Oxford, MS 38655

Date Reported:
 Time Reported:
  7:20 PM
 Reporting Officer:
  Det. Sam Murphy
 Unit Number:
 Assisting Officer:
  Det. Ted Armstrong
 Unit Number:


  K-9 search of St. Peter's Cemetery a.k.a. Oxford Memorial Cemetery
  10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
 416-438 North 16th Street, Oxford, MS
 Clear with gusty winds, 48° F / 9° C at 10:00 AM, 54° F / 12° C at 5:30 PM


 ACTION DESCRIPTION (Brief narrative of the investigative action taken.)

At 1:46 a.m. on January 14, 2014, Dispatch received a non-emergency call indicating that evidence related to the current whereabouts of Cameron Maxwell and Caitlin Maxwell may be found at St. Peter's Cemetery in Oxford. The caller referenced "two skaters" and a fresh grave at that location.

Deputies were dispatched to secure the cemetery until a daylight search could be conducted. Reporting Investigators (R/Is) were notified about the call and contacted the Mississippi Crime Lab to request a forensic K-9 unit to search the cemetery as soon as possible.

R/Is arrived at the cemetery at 10:00 a.m. and found the location still secured by deputies. R/Is met with cemetery caretaker Jonathan Giles, who indicated that there were six new gravesites in the cemetery between December 13, 2013 and January 14, 2104, two of which are located on the south side of the cemetery. The most recent south-side gravesite was filled on January 2, 2014, and the other on December 23, 2013. Giles said he had not noticed any unusual activity in the cemetery and had not noticed any gravesites disturbed.

R/Is, Giles, and other YCSD personnel conducted a preliminary visual search of the area, keeping to the paved lanes in the cemetery to minimize potential contamination in advance of the K-9 search. Giles noted that the surface of the January 2, 2014 grave appeared somewhat atypical.

Forensics Officer T. R. Douglas arrived on the scene at 10:30 a.m.

William Carter of the Forensic K-9 Unit arrived on the scene at 10:50 a.m. with trained forensic search cadaver dog, Major. Carter served as scene coordinator for the K-9 search. See attached K-9 Unit Report.

In the period from January 3, 2014, when Cameron Maxwell and Caitlin Maxwell were last seen, through January 14, 2014, the weather station at the University of Mississippi reports a total of .71 inches of rain for Oxford.

The search criteria were set for blood evidence, buried body, hand dug grave, cadaver scent. In addition, scent samples were provided for Cameron Maxwell and Caitlin Maxwell. The first area to be searched was the south side area of the cemetery.


 INITIAL FINDINGS (Preliminary results of the investigative action)

View photos of the cemetery location

K-9 Major set alerts at several locations. The January 2, 2014 grave produced a clear buried body alert (flag number 1), an area measured at 4.5 feet from the east side of that gravesite produced a blood alert (flag number 2), and an area adjacent to the access road produced a blood alert (flag number 3). The alerts were flagged, and on the basis of the forensic K-9 field report, a court order was obtained from the Superior Court at 2:35 p.m. to open the grave.

R/Is returned to the location with the court order at 2:50 p.m. After photographing the overall scene and flagged locations, a spiral search starting out at a radius of 150 feet from the center of the grave was begun. Minimal debris was found.

The forensic team recovered a cigarette butt and a torn chewing gum wrapper. Several blades of grass in the flagged area to the east of the grave, location number 2, were collected for analysis as was a soil sample. No footprints were observed or other potential forensic evidence recovered.

A tent was erected over the site and searchlights set up outside of the scene perimeter in preparation for the forensic exhumation of the grave. A painstaking method of shallow layer removal and sifting of each layer for potential trace evidence was employed. Exhumation began at 4:15 p.m. At 5:56 p.m., the team uncovered partially decomposed human remains, at which time further exhumation was halted pending the arrival of a Coroner's representative.

Coroner's Inspector Luwinda Johnson was called to the scene, arriving at 6:20 p.m. Extensive photographs were taken as the body was uncovered in stages. At 7:10 p.m., the body was fully exposed and appeared to be that of a young adult male dressed in blue jeans, T-shirt and black athletic shoes. The body was positioned in roughly a prone position face at depth of approximately three feet.

Inspector Johnson visually examined the body and observed an apparent gunshot wound to the back of the head, which initially appeared consistent with a shotgun wound. Inspector Johnson was not able to make a preliminary estimate of time of death at the scene, but indicated that further details would be available in the official autopsy report.

Inspector Johnson recovered an intact wallet from the right rear jeans pocket on the male body. A driver's license inside the wallet was issued to Cameron Maxwell. No other personal effects were recovered from the body at the scene.

Staining of the dirt around the head indicated the possible presence of blood and suggested the possibility that the male victim may have been placed in the grave shortly after being shot.

Once the body was removed and further scene measurements and photographs obtained, Inspector Johnson released the scene at 9:17 p.m. and exhumation was resumed. Inspector Johnson remained on the scene at R/Is' request.

At 9:57 p.m., the team uncovered the partially decomposed remains of a second body. Extensive photographs and measurements were taken as the remains were exposed, and at 11:15 p.m., the body was completely exposed.

The second victim appeared to be a young female dressed in jeans, white athletic shoes and a white sweatshirt, which appeared to be torn. The body was buried at a depth of approximately five feet in a partial fetal position, with the upper body in a supine position and the legs slightly to the left. The victim had long brown hair, which appeared caked with dirt and was draped across most of the facial area.

Inspector Johnson visually examined the second body and observed multiple apparent stab wounds. Inspector Johnson was not able to make a preliminary estimate of time of death at the scene, but indicated that further details would be available in the official autopsy report.

After Inspector Johnson completed her initial inspection, she stayed with the CSU team to ensure integrity of the second body while the team took photographs of the scene and performed preliminary analyses, until the second body could be removed from the scene without affecting other evidence.

To the south side of the grave where the female body was found, a green fanny pack was recovered at approximately the same level as the body near the feet. Among the items inside the pack was a wallet containing a driver's license issued to Caitlin Maxwell.

A preliminary search of the immediate area for the weapon(s) causing the injuries to the victims met with negative results. CSU will conduct a more intensive search and report their findings.

The bodies of the deceased were removed from the scene at 1:02 a.m. on January 15, 2014, and remanded into the custody of Coroner's Inspector Luwinda Johnson for transport to the coroner's office for autopsy.

Soil samples were taken for analysis. Soil sifting did not produce any additional identifiable physical evidence, and no additional material was recovered from the grave to the depth of the vault of the coffin.

No indications were observed that the grave had been disturbed below the level of the second body at approximately five feet. The earth beneath that level was packed and dense for the remaining two feet to the vault.

The scene was covered with a tarp at 3:19 a.m. and deputies assigned to secure the location. R/Is will contact the next of kin of the gravesite's owner to decide if the vault should be raised and examined for evidence of tampering.

Evidence remanded into the custody of Forensics Officer T. R. Douglas for transport to the State Crime Lab for routine analysis. CSU is expected to submit an inventory of items taken into evidence within seven days of this report, with detailed report(s) of their findings to follow at a later date.


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