Johnson County deputies walked land near Gardner, KS, Tuesday searching for evidence related to the discovery of a human skull.
Some hunters found the skull about 3:30 p.m. Monday in a creek bed. The skull was on a tract of land off Gardner Road near 215th Street.
The discovery came when neighbors said a man asked to go on the land to search for mushrooms and for antlers that had been shed by deer. When he returned to the neighbor's house, he told them about the gruesome discovery.
No flesh was attached, but the skull still had some teeth intact, which authorities hope helps them identify the person. No other bones were found. Officials said it appeared the skull had been there for some time.
"All you can do is shake your head and wonder what could possibly have occurred," said Dean Jenkins, who lives on the property where the skull was found. "There's hardly anybody up and down this road."
Jenkens' words reflect what everyone in the area is wondering.
"We're still trying to figure out what we have here on the property," Deputy Rick Howell said.
Investigators searched for clues until 8 p.m. Monday and then suspended the search because of nightfall. A deputy was posted overnight to guard the area to ensure the crime scene is not contaminated.
On Tuesday, about a dozen deputies conducted a grid search to see if they could find any further remains or clues to let them know the identity of the person the skull belongs to. A grid search involves deputies walking arm-in-arm while searching the entire length of the property. In this case, deputies planned to search about a square mile.
"It's creepy," neighbor Kathleen Seawright said.
Currently, deputies don't know if the skull was the results of a suicide, natural causes or foul play. But they said with a suicide or natural causes one would assume the person's car would be nearby in such a rural area and authorities haven't found any abandoned vehicles.
Some neighbors said they wouldn't be surprised to find out foul play was involved.
"Doesn't surprise me in some ways because you just never know what could be out there. At night people could easily do that, you wouldn't see it," Seawright said.
The snowy weather slowed down Tuesday's search and it was halted for the day. Deputies will be back out on Wednesday.
The wooded area is about 250 feet down a private drive and the hunters don't live on the property.
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