Snow impedes Harrison probe Examination of grave put on hold by police

December 07, 1996|By Kris Antonelli and Jay Apperson | Kris Antonelli and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Several inches of snow in Western Maryland yesterday hampered the state police investigation into the mysterious death of Susan Hurley Harrison, the Ruxton woman whose skeletal remains were found last week near the small Catoctin Mountain town of Wolfsville.

About a dozen state police investigators have been assigned to the case, said Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

Over the past week, some of those investigators searched the brush off Hayes Road where the remains of Harrison, 52, were found at about 4: 30 p.m. Nov. 29 by two hikers.

But Shipley said the Thursday night snowfall made an additional search for evidence impossible yesterday and investigators may return to the scene Monday.

"Investigators spent the day with Baltimore County police detectives, planning strategies for the next phase of the investigation," Shipley said.

"We are taking calls from the public that came in as a result of the news reports, and those leads will be followed up."

The state medical examiner's office identified Harrison's remains Thursday using dental records, police said. She had been missing since Aug. 5, 1994.

The last person known to have seen her alive was her estranged husband, James J. Harrison Jr., 60.

Susan Harrison, who had been separated from her husband but still visited him frequently, filed for divorce in January 1994, court records show. She cited abandonment and cruelty as grounds.

Mr. Harrison has maintained that his wife left his house in the 600 block of Timonium Road about 10 p.m. Aug. 5, 1994, and that he has not seen her since.

After she was reported missing, her car, a dark green Saab, turned up in a parking lot at Washington National Airport.

Although police questioned Mr. Harrison for several hours Thursday, they have not named him as a suspect.

The investigation now focuses on finding additional evidence from the gravesite in Wolfsville -- a small town where residents live in frame farmhouses with front porches and work as farmers or commute to Frederick or metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Harrison's remains were found off Hayes Road, a narrow gravel thoroughfare just a quick turn off Md. Route 17. Her body had apparently been left about 75 feet downhill from the road. The gravesite is about 30 feet from Middle Creek.

With the leaves having fallen from the trees, Route 17 is visible about 500 feet from the grave. The area where the body was found is frequently used by hunters as a dumping ground for deer carcasses, residents say.

Yesterday, yellow crime scene tape formed a circle around the shallow grave that had held Harrison's bones. The small pink flags that waved over a light layer of snow marked the location of the woman's skull and her feet, said Larry E. West, an investigator from the state medical examiner's office.

West said he had been called to the scene last Friday to determine whether the remains were human or animal.

One look, he said, and he had the answer.

"These were very obviously human bones," he said yesterday. "The skull was intact. The bones were not connected, but they were in proximity.

He said the arrangement of the bones suggested the woman had been left with her ankles crossed, and her arms above her head. He also noticed that she had "extensive and expensive dental work."

Investigators found a piece of a bra, pieces of a nylon or silk blouse, a tag with the size "petite" and a ring, West said. A section of black underwear was found on a hip bone, he said.

Some who live nearby said they were surprised that the remains were apparently undiscovered for more than two years.

"I go for walks all the time up and down that road," said Lois Johnson, who lives nearby on Spruce Run Road.

"It's strange," said Kathy Queen, who was working the cash register yesterday at the Lee Delauder & Sons general store, about a mile from the site.

"We have mushroom hunters, we have squirrel hunters, we have deer hunters. We have hunters all the time."

Pub Date: 12/07/96

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