Man claims dead body is the third he's found

June 28, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD


Steve Pettner doesn't look for the dead, he just finds them.

After walking about 500 yards from his Hopps Landing Road cabin Friday, the former gravedigger was overcome by the smell of what he believed was a dead deer. He stopped and peered over a tree-lined embankment above Conococheague Creek, where he found a dead body.

The body, whom police have not identified, is the third Pettner claims he's uncovered.

"I said, 'Cripe. I'm gonna go work for the police department. I find them all,'" the former Rest Haven Cemetery employee said.

Pettner, 49, claims he found a woman dead on a log after she jumped from a Williamsport bridge about 20 years ago. He claims he more recently directed police to a person whom he watched careen a truck off a bridge near Dam No. 5.


This time was different.

"I was stunned. It was the first time I ever come up on something that sick looking," he said.

An autopsy was performed Saturday on the badly decomposed body, but police have not gained much new information, Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mark Knight said Monday.

Police know the man is white, but they don't know how old he is or how long he has been dead.

The Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which performed the autopsy, is bringing in an expert who specializes in bugs to determine the man's time of death, Knight said.

"We're not treating it as a homicide, we're treating it as a death investigation until we hear otherwise," he said.

Knight said learning an identity for the man, who has not matched the description of any missing persons, will "help us figure out a lot more."

Hopps Landing Road is a narrow gravel path that forks off of Broadfording Road just before the bridge, which is under construction. Lined with trees and overgrown foliage, the road runs up a hill parallel to Conococheague Creek until the forest opens to unveil 13 mostly run-down cabins, half of which are vacant.

Knight said the body's location does "throw up some flags, but we can't say either way."

Pettner, who was looking for his daughter Friday after she ran off following an argument, said the man was wearing a brown leather bomber jacket, jeans, a belt and black and white sneakers.

Knight said, "We can't say how or why this person ended up there."

The spot where the man's body was found is near where 58-year-old Darrius Allen Fetterhoff was found beaten, robbed and left for dead on Aug. 20, 1997, Knight said. Fetterhoff later died. Thomas Clifford Wallace was convicted in November 2000 of first-degree murder for Fetterhoff's death and was sentenced to life without parole, according to published reports.

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