Deer hunters make a chilling discovery, but one that could offer help to the prosecution in an upcoming murder case.
“With the leaves all on the ground, she was wrapped in a blanket. They were able to see the whiteness and thought it was a downed deer and went up to investigate,” Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said.
Hunters called Heitman’s office at 9:21am Tuesday, after they realized what they found were human remains.
“There’s evidence at the scene that leads me to believe that it’s the remains of Kinga Gillibrand. It’s approximately a mile and a half from the scene where we believe Kinga Gillibrand was murdered,” Heitman said. He says he went with a deputy to respond to the call off Maries County Road 215.
Gillibrand went missing in June, but Heitman says it’s been alleged since then that Terry Fritz shot and killed her in a home near rural Meta based on evidence found there. Fritz had already been charged with murder.
“I feel we had a very strong case against Mr. Fritz without the remains. This additional evidence that we recovered from the scene and the fact that we actually have her remains; that’s going to make her case even that much stronger,” Heitman said.
Fritz is expected to go to trial on murder charges in January. An autopsy will be conducted in Farmington Wednesday to confirm the remains are Gillibrand’s.
“The family, you know, expected this and it’s nice to finally be able to give them some closure and give them a place to go and say goodbye to their daughter. Everybody deserves a proper burial. No one deserves to be drug off in to the woods and be left to rot there. This is something that the family deserves to have, and Kinga Gillibrand deserves a proper burial,” Heitman said.
Heitman says the body was found about 40 yards away from a vacant shed in the woods.
“We’ve searched this general vicinity and actually we’ve had hundreds of searchers, fire department personnel and numerous law enforcement agencies out searching as well. We’ve been in this general vicinity with a large number of people and just didn’t quite locate her. At one time, I know for a fact, my Chief Deputy was within 50 yards of her remains. Back in June and July the foliage was pretty full and he just was not able to see her,” Heitman said.
Heitman says his office realized they might have another chance to recover her remains as firearm deer season opened over the weekend.
“We’d sent out to the news media and hung up fliers at the surrounding gas stations asking for everyone to keep an eye out for her remains and take a little bit of time to canvass the area they were hunting. That’s what this gentleman did,” Heitman said.