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Remains of Man Missing More than Six Years Identified on St. Croix

April 15, 2008 — While doing fieldwork last Wednesday on the northwestern end of St. Croix, Police Sgt. Jonathan Hitesman came across human skeletal remains since identified as those of 33-year-old Kai Oliver, who disappeared in November 2001.
Examination of Oliver's bones showed evidence of gunshot and stab wounds in the shoulder blade area, according to Dr. D'Michelle Dupree, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner. Oliver's death would be classified as a homicide, Dupree said Tuesday during a V.I. Police Department press conference.
Over the years police have found the remains of other homicide victims in remote areas of St. Croix, said Hitesman, a 24-year veteran of VIPD's Forensics Unit. Oliver's remains were found down "a steep slope in the hills," near a shallow grave that once concealed the body, Hitesman said.
"The bones were bleached, cleared of flesh and other debris, so I could tell they had been there for some time," he said.
The body was transported to the local morgue and anatomically reconstructed after a subsequent investigation of the scene by Hitesman, Dupree and Dr. Susan G.S. Anderson, a forensic dentist. After looking at a VIPD list of missing persons, the group narrowed the identity of the body down to two people.
"We compared old x-rays we had to the bones and looked at the individual's dental chart," Dupree said. "I noticed that the individual had previous surgery — during the examination, I came across surgical screws the victim had in his lower extremities –and there were two subjects on the department's missing persons list that fit that description."
A subsequent dental report conducted by Anderson matched Oliver's dental records, which Oliver's family had submitted after he went missing and were on file at the VIPD.
Around the same time as Oliver's disappearance in 2001, police were dispatched to investigate a shooting in the Frederiksted area, Hitesman said.
"We didn't find anyone there when we arrived at the scene, but we were able to recover spent casings and other projectiles," he added. "At the time it looked like someone had been shot. Mr. Oliver's family had also filed a missing persons report later that day."
The combination of evidence collected from the original crime scene and the recent forensic investigation could help lead police to Oliver's murderer, according to Police Commissioner James H. McCall.
"We have the evidence at this point, now we just have to do some old-fashioned police work," he said. McCall urged residents with any information about Oliver's disappearance or death to contact the department. Meanwhile, the VIPD plans to move forward with its own investigation and use all resources — including cadaver dogs trained to find human remains — to look into other unsolved cases.
Residents wishing to have the VIPD launch an investigation into other unsolved or missing-persons cases should contact the department at 715- 5524, McCall said.
The department, in conjunction with the local Department of Justice, is also in the process of constructing a state-of-the-art forensics laboratory in the territory.
"Phase one of this project should be up and running in a couple of months," Dupree said. "We have already received on island the equipment we need to do forensic toxicology, blood alcohol and drug analysis. The next phases will allow us to incorporate firearms, fingerprints and DNA, so we are really looking to set up a comprehensive lab in the territory."
Missing persons still on file are:
— Uroy James, missing since Dec. 14, 2004;
— Lorraine Bryan, missing since Sept. 21, 2004;
— Antonio Garnette, missing since Feb. 21, 2003;
— Alva Hodge, missing since Sept. 7, 2002;
— Johan Nunes, missing since Aug. 2, 2002;
— Police Cpl. Wendell Williams, missing since June 1, 2001 (the investigation into Williams' disappearance is still ongoing, McCall said);
— Conrad Jones, missing since Dec. 22, 1999;
— Thomas Kosika, missing since April 17, 1999;
— Walter Buntin, missing since Sept. 23, 1999; and
— Wilfredo Cruz, missing since June 22, 1998.
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