A recent tip to the Noblesville Police Department led to the discovery of human remains today while searching for Noblesville resident Dorothy Heard, who has been missing since June 13. NPD Spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said investigators traveled to Marion, Ind. and conducted searches on Feb. 3, 7 and today.
“As a result of the information we had we planned to conduct a series of searches up in the area of Mississinewa River,” said Barnes. “At approximately 11 a.m. this morning, searchers located an area believed to contain human remains. That area was immediately secured and is currently being protected by officers up here right now.”
Barnes said there has not been any identification on the remains that have been found.
“We are in the initial phases of processing the scene,” he said. “We’ll be out here first thing in the morning with investigators that will meticulously go through this area and try to retrieve as much information and evidence as we possibly can.
“We have not made any sort of positive identification. We certainly are not the authority to make that call. That will come from the Grant County Coroner’s Office,” Barnes continued. “Our job at this time is to maintain the integrity of the scene, retrieve as much evidence and information as we can and have that information available to the Grant County Coroner’s Office.”
Barnes, who keeps in constant contact with the Heard family, informed them that NPD officers were searching around Marion when human remains were found.
“We felt that was necessary and we’ve tried to keep them informed as much as possible during this investigation,” he said. “We have simply told them that we have found human remains and that we cannot elaborate beyond that because we don’t have those answers.”
Police first began searching for evidence of Heard at the Mississinewa Reservoir in Wabash and Grant counties on June 17-18, 2011.
“We’ve been up in this area a number of times. We’ve had information throughout this investigation that had made this a point of interest up here,” said Barnes. “When we learned the information we did last week we were somewhat prepared because we have been up in this area before.”
Since the investigation into Heard’s disappearance began on June 14, police have searched for her in Hamilton, Tipton, Madison, Grant and Wabash counties, but the Mississinewa Reservoir in Grant County, which includes 15,000 acres, has always been one location of particular interest.
“We are considering every place in terms of location,” said Barnes. “The area presents some possibilities because there are so many small one-lane roads. We’ve spent hundreds of hours up there working with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and DNR.”
For the past seven and a half months, NPD officers have been working intensely at finding Heard.
Barnes estimates that thousands of man hours have been spent looking for Heard and the investigation is an agency-wide effort. He said the department’s No. 1 priority is and has always been finding Heard.
“Our No. 1 priority is to find her and get her back to her family,” he said. “Our No. 2 priority is to criminally prosecute those responsible for this.”
Barnes, who has been the department’s liaison with Heard’s family, said these cases are tough because the NPD hasn’t had very many missing person cases – Heard is the only Noblesville resident currently reported as missing in the city.
“What makes this case different is we don’t have much information to give them. We always let them know before anybody else finds out about it,” he said. “The family wants closure and we want that for them. It’s not the long hours, the pay or being tired – we want to make the family as right as they can be moving forward. We deal with them on a daily basis and will continue to deal with them until we find her.”
Heard’s nephew is still a “person of interest” in her disappearance. Donald Burns, 47, of Elwood was caught on surveillance video footage on June 13, 2011 selling a wedding ring matching Heard’s at 5:23 p.m. in a Marion pawn shop. Barnes said Burns’ right thumb imprint and photo ID were used at the EZ Pawn Store to sell the merchandise. Surveillance video shows a man matching Burns’ description buying jewelry worth $378.78 from the Wal-Mart at 5:40 p.m. About 15 minutes later another $698 transaction was denied from Heard’s credit card company.
“She would not have given him the ring and credit card willingly,” said Lou Ann Sylvester, Heard’s daughter. “I would like to know how he got them.”
Police officers wanted to ask Burns questions about Heard’s disappearance but were unable to because he refuses to cooperate in the investigation. Barnes said police believe Burns might have been one of the few people to have last seen Heard.
In December 2011, Burns enters a guilty plea in Madison Superior Court 5 on a felony charge of resisting law enforcement following his arrest on June 14. Madison Superior Court Judge Thomas Clem sentenced Burns to one year on the resisting law enforcement conviction and credited him with six months of time served. Burns was transported to the Pendleton Correctional Facility to serve the remainder of his sentence from Tipton County on a Class A felony conviction of child molesting.
During his parole board hearing at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on Jan. 17, the Marion Police Department charged Burns with two counts of forgery for allegedly using his aunt’s credit cards at Wal-Mart and two counts of theft for allegedly taking items out of Heard’s house. Burns has not been charged in Heard’s disappearance and his parole request was denied.
By Robert Herrington
Robert is the Managing Editor of Current in Noblesville.