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Police say female was stabbed

August 23, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Authorities have determined that stabbing was the cause of death of a female found Sunday along Back Creek, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Tuesday.

The female's identity remains unknown and a time of death also was not immediately available, Games-Neely said.

"We've got a lot of decomposition," she said, noting environmental factors and other variables that could be in play in making a determination.

Games-Neely declined to confirm a story by The Associated Press that said the remains were found in a suitcase and black plastic bag, and contained dismembered body parts.

"We're not saying that," Games-Neely said.

A full autopsy was completed Tuesday at the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston, and Games-Neely expected to be able to review a preliminary report of the examination by Thursday.

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The county's top prosecutor backed away from initial police reports indicating the female was white.

"We confirmed (Monday) that we had three reported missing females," Games-Neely said.

West Virginia State Police initially announced Monday that the remains were found along the creek by two fishermen who have not been identified.

Police cordoned off a 500-yard area along the creek south of a small bridge near the intersection of Buck Hill Road and Tuscarora Pike and the small community of Shanghai.

Early Monday evening, a three-dog, K-9 unit searched along the creek for more than two hours, West Virginia State Police Sgt. G.S. Petsko said Tuesday. Dive team members with the Frederick County (Va.) Sheriff's Department also searched the creek for evidence Monday.

The death is being investigated as a homicide, police said.

If unable to make positive identification, Petsko said authorities will attempt to create an image based on the remains.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources spokesman Hoy Murphy told the AP that a man and woman fishing in a boat on the creek spotted the suitcase and bag in the water.

The couple then alerted a DNR conservation officer who was patrolling the area, Murphy told the AP, and the officer called state police for assistance.

Murphy was unable to be reached Tuesday.

Police have declined to say whether anything was found by the K-9 or dive team searches. State Police Trooper F.H. Edwards is leading the investigation.

Games-Neely said authorities are focused on identifying the body and invited the public who might know of a missing female (excluding those reported within 24 hours of the discovery) to contact State Police.

The Martinsburg detachment can be reached at 304-267-0001

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