Post-mortem needed to ID body

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The corpse found Tuesday afternoon in the Hollywood neighborhood has left residents of Vermont Street with memories too gruesome to soon forget. One woman said it would take a good, long time to forget the sight of a body so badly decomposed that she will never forget it.

According to Suffolk Police Information Coordinator Mike Simpkins, it will probably be two more days before identification is made. He explained that the fingers on the body were so distorted by swelling that the medical examiner has to wait several hours for swelling to diminish enough so that prints can even be taken.

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The corpse, a black male, was found in the sometimes-dry Shingle Creek, a runoff from the Nansemond River. The body was clothed in tennis shoes, jeans, and a long-sleeved blue shirt.

&uot;The man’s torso had been in the water for some time and he was in such bad shape… he was face down in the water and warm temperatures and the water contributed to decomposition,&uot; Simpkins explained.

Suffolk Police Sergeant M.W. McKenzie added that when the body was found, there did not appear to be any signs of foul play. The sergeant added that at one point, the lead investigators on the case thought they had an identity on the man, however, it proved untrue.

&uot;We only had one missing black male adult in the city and we’ve now eliminated him as the man in the ravine,&uot; said McKenzie. &uot;The cause of death has not been determined but there were no obvious signs of foul play or trauma to the head. Right now, we are just waiting to hear from the medical examiner.&uot;

The man who discovered the corpse, 71-year-old Predell Ruffin, told police he thought he knew the man, but he cannot be sure because nothing was left of the head other than skeletal remains. Simpkins said turtles, fish and other animals had partially destroyed the body where clothing did not protect it.

Ruffin called police after he discovered the body while feeding stray cats at the end of Vermont Avenue. When he went to feed the cats, he noticed the strong odor and went to investigate the source. After discovering the body, he notified police.

Police ask that anyone who may know the identity of the man call the police department at 923-2350, or call Crime Line at 539-1222.

You may also contact the lead investigators in the case, Detectives E.C. Harris and Gary Myrick at 923-2193.

In a separate unrelated discovery, the body of 87-year old Dorothy Cutchins Ward, was found at the edge of Lake Meade behind her East Riverview Drive home. She was found by a family member around 3:40 p.m.

According to Simpkins, Ward had been cleaning up debris in her yard, tossing it into the lake. Police do not suspect foul play in her death, but that she may have slipped and fell into the water. It is being treated as an accidental death.