06/29/08 — Body found behind church in November identified

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Body found behind church in November identified

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 29, 2008 2:01 AM

The bones found behind Fellowship Baptist Church last November once belonged to a man known to wander fields and ditches in search of valuables, the Sheriff's Office says.

Genesis Bruce Lewis had been missing since 2004, and did not turn up until someone found his skeletal remains scattered in a ditch in 2007.

Foul play has never been suspected, authorities have said. Goldsboro police took the initial missing person report in January 2004.

Lewis was identified by a Medical Examiner's Office bone expert after traditional identification methods proved fruitless, Capt. Tom Effler said.

That left the identity of the victim a mystery for many months, after a reportedly happenstance discovery of Lewis' remains.

A worker clearing a field belonging to Goldsboro City Councilman Chuck Allen alerted authorities when he found a skull on the Arrington Bridge Road property, Sheriff's Office officials said.

It still is not clear how Lewis got there, and with the area's history of flooding, he could have died elsewhere and washed into the ditch, authorities have said.

However, the land lies near the intersection of John Street -- where Lewis is last known to have lived -- and Arrington Bridge Road.

The skeletal find launched a laborious investigation starting with a two-day excavation of the skull and bone fragments scattered over a distance of about 150 feet.

A team of Sheriff's Office detectives and other volunteers said they were knee-deep in mud to extract the pieces of bone.

As he left the excavation site when authorities finished their search on Nov. 24, Capt. Tom Effler remarked that despite the intensive search, "We have not found it all, and we probably never will."

Because of the skeleton's age, investigation proved difficult, because medical and dental records proved difficult to obtain.

Sheriff's Office detectives said that Lewis was actually the second missing person they posited as the skeleton's owner.

Detectives sought records to link him with the skull and bones, Effler said, but time had washed those away as well.

Only one facility was likely to have had medical or dental records belonging to Lewis, but the information was collected so long ago, that the records had been destroyed, Effler said.

That left the greatest hope of identifying the body with Medical Examiner John Butts' office in Chapel Hill.

It took many weeks, but the bone expert was finally able to positively identify Lewis.

Effler said he got a call from a bone expert with the Chapel Hill-based Medical Exam-iner's Office.

"He called and said 'I've got good news.'" Effler said. "I said, 'You've identified him, didn't you.'"

Although there were no obvious signs of foul play in Lewis' death, what caused him to die is still officially listed as "undetermined."