Months of mystery surrounding the disappearance of Noblesville resident Dorothy Heard, 74, ended last week as the Grant County coroner’s office said a body found there in February is of the missing grandmother. But while the search for Heard – who had been missing since June 13 – has ended, the investigation into her disappearance and death is still under investigation.
“It’s a step in the right direction as we continue our investigation,” said Noblesville Police Dept. Spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes. “We don’t have an answer to cause of death and other questions. It’s not changed much on what we’re continuing to do.”
A tip led Noblesville Police investigators to a rural area north of Marion on Feb. 9 where human remains were found, but conditions were such that no immediate identification was possible. Confirmed identification of the remains found near Mississinewa Reservoir was made using DNA. Heard’s remains were sent to a forensics lab at the University of Indianapolis for trauma analysis testing. The coroner said those results will lead to a clearer picture of how she died. While the positive identification provides a name, Barnes said many questions are unanswered.
“There are not a whole lot of answers – how did she get there, how long has she been there, what is the cause of death?” he said.
Since the investigation into Heard’s disappearance began on June 14, police have searched for her in Hamilton, Tipton, Madison, Grant and Wabash counties. Since her body was discovered in Grant County, Barnes said the two law enforcement agencies are sharing resources and information as they work together on the case.
“This is still very much an ongoing investigation,” he said. “We still don’t have a suspect.”
Barnes said Heard’s nephew is still a “person of interest.” Donald Burns, 47, of Elwood was caught on surveillance video footage using Heard’s credit card to purchase hundreds of dollars in jewelry at a Wal-Mart store in Marion, just hours after she was last seen by other family members. Barnes said Burns also tried to pawn Heard’s wedding ring at EZ Pawn in Marion the same day. On Jan. 17, Burns was charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of theft for the alleged actions on June 13. However, Burns has not been charged in Heard’s disappearance or death.
“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.
Those who may have tips on Heard’s disappearance are encouraged to contact NPD investigators at 776-6371.
“We’re still hoping we get a break,” said Barnes. “We’re still submitting information and evidence to the state lab (for analysis and testing).”