KANAWHA FALLS, W.Va. — For now, only one missing person fits the preliminary time frame police in Fayette County have established for the human remains discovered in Kanawha Falls on Tuesday.
“The only missing person that anyone has been able to tell me about in that area during that time frame is a lady named Sue Roop, who went missing in 1979,” Captain Jim Sizemore of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.
Captain Sizemore said the human remains discovered Tuesday have likely been in the “shallow grave” in the Kanawha Falls region for far longer than two or three years, but fewer than 50 years.
“The size of the skeleton would be consistent with her known size, but that is by no means confirmed,” Sizemore said. “That’s just a possibility at this point.”
According to Sizemore, identification analysis, cause of death, and length of time in the grave will all take months of work by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. Investigators already had to delay their work at the excavation site once this week due to the condition of the remains.
“Because of the nature of an excavation of that type, you really don’t want to be doing it when it’s dark,” Sizemore said. “You may miss small bone fragments.”
And investigators, who are now calling this an open homicide investigation, don’t want to miss anything. Roop went missing around Valentine’s Day in 1979 before her children returned home from school. She was never heard from again, and no remains were ever discovered.
“It’s always been a big mystery in the Gauley Bridge area, and there’s been a lot of rumors circulated about what had happened to Sue Roop,” Sizemore said. “But there has never been anything conclusive.”
Roop lived in Bentree, an unincorporated community in parts of Nicholas and Clay counties about eight miles from Gauley Bridge.
“There have never been any remains found,” he said. “I’m hopeful that if this is her, it will finally bring closure to the family.”
This isn’t the first time area law enforcement thought they had made a break in the Roop case. The remains of a woman discovered in nearby Raleigh County several years before prompted a similar response when initial information pointed strongly to Roop.
“It seemed very likely a possibility that those remains may have been that of Sue Roop,” Sizemore said. “Ultimately, it did not turn out to be her. [Raleigh County] Sheriff [Steve] Tanner put a tremendous amount of work–on his own time–trying to solve that case and identify those remains.”
Captain Sizemore strongly indicated that there was no concrete time table for a conclusion to this process.
“Identifying our victim is the first step,” Sizemore said. “We may have preliminary information as to cause and manner of death before then, but that’s up to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”