The remains of a Virgina man who vanished in the woods last year have been found as investigators continue to search for his killer or killers.
Chad Austin, 30, of Buena Vista was last seen alive on May 27, 2019 by two campers in the Panther Falls area, according to a Virginia State Police press release, provided to Oxygen.com. His silver 2006 Hyundai Tiburon was found abandoned nearby the next day.
"His beloved, mixed breed dog, Gunner, was found unharmed and locked inside the car," police noted in the press release, written on Monday. Austin's keys and some other belongings were also spotted about half a mile from his car during an immediate search for him but Austin was nowhere to be found.
While his loved ones remained hopeful — they created a Facebook page called “Bring Chad Austin Home” — skeletal remains were discovered in March about three quarters of a mile west of where his vehicle was found. Some of his belongings were found along with the remains, which were all discovered in a remote area far from the roadway, according to the state police. Forensic testing has now confirmed that the remains are that of Austin. While it's not yet clear exactly how he died, his death is being investigated as a homicide.
Police now reveal that investigators believed he may have been murdered from the start. Buena Vista Police Chief Keith Hartman noted in June 2019 that there were “too many red flags for us to say he just went on a walk," Virginia outlet WSLS reports.Virginia State Police Special Agent K.A. Zirkle stated in the press release that "this case has been handled as a homicide investigation from the very beginning.”
Zirkle stated that investigators have been collecting and documenting evidence and information that will hopefully point to who is responsible for Austin’s death. The press release adds that "forensic investigators collected property and evidence that is currently undergoing testing at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science."
“As unfortunate as this development is, finding Chad’s remains allows us to now focus exclusively on the circumstances leading to his death,” Zirkle said in the release.
No suspects or persons of interest have been named. Austin’s family is asking for privacy.
The Buena Vista Police Department and the Virginia State Police have not immediately returned Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
Anyone with any information about the case is urged to call the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation at (800) 542-5959 or (540) 375-9589.
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