12/04/09 — Officials eye cause of death

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Officials eye cause of death

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 4, 2009 1:46 PM

PRINCETON -- An autopsy of an unidentified man found dead Tuesday morning in Evergreen Cemetery is scheduled for today in Chapel Hill, authorities said.

Capt. Tom Effler said there are currently no suspects in the case, which is being investigated as a homicide.

Effler said he would not release any details about the victim's injuries until the autopsy has been completed in Chapel Hill at the office of N.C. Medical Examiner John Butts.

The captain declined to say whether the investigation pointed to gunshot wounds or another type of weapon.

"We're going to let the medical examiner decide what the cause of death is," the captain said.

Sheriff's Office deputies first responded to Evergreen Cemetery, on U.S. 70 West between Rosewood and Princeton, around 8:45 a.m. on Thursday.

Cemetery workers discovered the body on the west side of the graveyard, an open area visible from the road where few graves have been erected.

Effler said the victim's body was not anywhere near a grave.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said detectives assigned to the case will be in Chapel Hill today, waiting for a preliminary result from the medical examiner.

Effler said that authorities may choose not to release the preliminary result of the medical examiner, either.

"(Whether we release that information) depends on whether that information is something that might help us catch who did it."

Other parts of the medical examiner's report will take longer, including a toxicology report.

The murder victim is described as a white male, between 5 feet 5 inches and 6 feet tall, according to the report. The man had reddish-brown hair and a slender build, Effler said.

Authorities said the injuries were severe enough to make pinpointing the victim's age difficult. According to a news release, the suspect could be anywhere between 25 and 40 years old.

The Sheriff's Office said they need the public's help in the case, and ask anyone who observed suspicious activity at or near the cemetery after sunset on Dec. 2 to report it.

Detective Lt. Carl Lancaster is the lead investigator in the case, and can be reached at 731-1481, or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 735-2255.