Searchers have recovered bone fragments and minor skeletal remains since the discovery of a skull in a steep and rugged area of Petit Jean Mountain that led to the identification of missing Little Rock businessman John Glasgow, state Parks Director Gregg Butts said Friday.
About two dozen law enforcement personnel from the Conway County sheriff's office, the Morrilton Police Department, the Arkansas State Police and state Parks Division have been searching the remote area of Petit Jean State Park since two hikers found a skull there Wednesday afternoon.
Using dental records, the skull was identified by the state Crime Laboratory on Thursday afternoon as that of Glasgow, the chief financial officer and vice president for CDI Contractors.
Glasgow, who was 45 at the time of his disappearance, was last seen on the morning of Jan. 28, 2008, leaving his Little Rock home. A tourist photo later showed that his SUV was parked outside Mather Lodge at the state park.
A soaking and constant rain that continued Friday had forced the team to halt its efforts at about noon Thursday in a rocky, forest-covered area of the state park. According to the National Weather Service in Little Rock, rain is in the forecast until Sunday morning, but Monday is predicted to be mostly sunny with a high of 71 degrees.
"It has been pouring rain. We're not searching for someone who is injured and needs to be rescued," Butts said. "It needs to dry out. We will be picking up each leaf and doing a very careful, gentle raking."
The more remains that are found, the better the chance of determining the cause of death, state Crime Laboratory Director Kermit Channel said.
"We will rely on law enforcement to continue their investigation and search. As they discover additional human remains, they will be submitted to us to examine," Channel said.
He added that the medical examiner is working as thoroughly and quickly as possible so that the remains can be returned to the family.
"Truly, every case is different. The timeline depends on the circumstances," Channel said. "We do what we can and work with law enforcement. Determining the manner of death will take a lot of interaction with the investigative agency."
Just before his disappearance, there was tension between Glasgow and executives of Dillard's Inc., which at the time owned 50 percent of construction company CDI Contractors. Glasgow was among CDI executives who were in negotiations to purchase the half of the company that had become available after the death of CDI co-founder Bill Clark.
While officials have not speculated on the cause of Glasgow's death, his brother Roger Glasgow said at a Thursday news conference that he believes his brother's death was the result of foul play.
Butts said Friday that the recovered skull "did not appear, at first review, to have extensive trauma."
"If somebody falls from these elevations, based on our experience, there is usually extensive head trauma," Butts said.
While the absence of head injuries from such a fall may be unusual, there are exceptions, said Joseph Jensen, an attending trauma surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
"If someone lands on their feet, for example, you are looking at axial loading injuries," Jensen said. "Think about as the body hits the ground, you're going to have heel bones that are broken, neck injuries or a compression fracture of the spine. In a hypothetical situation, if someone falls, you could see any kind of injury."
Also, Jensen added, not all fatal head injuries result in skull fractures.
"A subdural hematoma can occur without a fracture to their skull," Jensen said. "There are several injuries that could be fatal where the evidence could not be determined."
The remains were found below a bluff near Red Bluff Drive, just off part of the 20-mile-long Boy Scout Trail in the park. Butts said the area is not usually heavily visited because of the trail's length and "very steep, rough topography." The steepest part of the area where the remains were found is about a 200-foot drop.
"It is a very steep, graduated descent with rocks protruding outward as you go down the bluff," Butts said.
The 2,700 acres of Petit Jean State Park have about 7 miles of bluff lines, as well as a 95-foot high waterfall. Through the years, visitors have fallen in the park, especially when getting too close to the top of the waterfall.
"We have had deaths and people severely injured, but not many people have fallen off bluffs," Butts said. "There have been accidents, but it's a very small number."
Glasgow was the only person reported missing in the state park who had not been located, officials said.
The remains were found within a mile of where Glasgow's vehicle was last seen parked at the time of his disappearance. That mile, however, is "as the crow flies" and includes lengthy, boulder-laden, steep trails, Butts said.
As the recovery efforts begin again Monday, officials will grid the area for more intensive searching that will include cadaver dogs and metal detectors.
"We even have an archaeologist that will be coming with the Arkansas State Police," Butts said. "They will work to determine how far the remains have been distributed and what to look for after so many years have passed."
Petit Jean State Park remains open, and hikers can traverse the majority of the trails, including the Cedar Falls trail that leads to the waterfall.
However, officials have cordoned off the search area and closed it to the public.
"It's closed for a good reason. We're trying to preserve evidence," Butts said. "It is very important that we are able to recover as many remains as possible and we need the public's cooperation to do that.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to John Glasgow's family, and we want to do our part to help them during this time."
State Desk on 03/14/2015
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