State police search woods for clues in Harrison case

December 11, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

State police investigators combed through the woods of Frederick County yesterday, hoping to finding clues to the death of Susan Hurley Harrison -- the Ruxton woman whose remains were found there late last month, more than two years after she disappeared.

"We are looking for leads that would tell us what happened to her between the time she disappeared and now," said Capt. Greg Shipley, state police spokesman. "We want to establish how she got to that area."

Harrison, 52, disappeared Aug. 5, 1994, but it wasn't until Nov. 29 that two hikers in the woods off Hayes Road in Wolfsville found her remains in an area where deer carcasses routinely are dumped. She was identified Thursday through dental records.

No cause of death

The state medical examiner's office has not determined the cause of Harrison's death. Shipley said investigators are waiting for the results of tests on Harrison's remains.

Yesterday, about 10 state police and evidence technicians performed a methodical "grid search," in which a broad area around where the body was found was marked off into sections, each assigned to a searcher responsible for going through everything in that section.

The case has been assigned to the state police's Special Investigative Services Unit -- a group of veteran detectives who specialize in cold cases, Shipley said.

"It's slow going," said Scott Rolle, the Frederick County prosecutor involved in the case. "This case has been thoroughly investigated by the Baltimore County police two years ago. But now that her body has been found, there is a new twist, and we are doing everything we can."

Fifth search of area

Yesterday was at least the fifth time investigators have gone through the area where Harrison was found, Shipley said. Neither he nor Rolle would comment on what, if anything, was found.

Harrison's estranged husband, James J. Harrison Jr., the last person known to have seen her alive, has said she left the house in the 600 block of W. Timonium Road about 10 p.m., after the couple had argued. She was living in a small rented house in Ruxton, and he said he assumed she was going home to prepare for a trip with her son the next day.

Baltimore County and state police investigators questioned Mr. Harrison for several hours Thursday night. They won't comment publicly on whether he is a suspect.

Mr. Harrison, 60, a retired McCormick executive, has said detectives accused him shortly after his wife's disappearance of killing her. He denies that, and says that while she had filed for divorce in January 1994, they talked the night she disappeared about getting back together. He could not be reached for comment last night.

Investigators are trying to determine if she or her husband had any links to the remote spot where her body was found. The area is accessible by a dirt road similar to a driveway.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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