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Moran's remains found

"An investigator from the Washington State Patrol surveys the site where Linda Moran's skeleton was found over the weekend. Three children playing in a dense patch of woods on Bayview Road Friday found the skeletal remains of Linda Moran, a South Whidbey woman who disappeared almost four-and-a-half years ago.Moran, who was last seen Dec. 22, 1996, disappeared from the Bayview Exxon gas station after she and her husband, Bill, stopped there to fill up the gas tank of the family station wagon. At the time, Bill Moran said his wife was in the front passenger's seat of the car when he went inside to pay for the gas. When he returned, she was gone.Based on the evidence found Friday, Moran did not go far. Her body was found less than a half-mile away from that station at a South Bayview Road property across from the Bayview Cemetery.The owner of the property, an elderly woman, asked not to be identified. A member of the woman's extended family, Pam Stovel, said there was a family campout on the property. The gathering included a 7-year-old boy named Cheyenne who was visiting from Montana.Cheyenne and two other boys, ages 7 and 10, were playing in the woods Friday hunting for slugs. Cheyenne came across some human bones and ran back to tell the adults. Stovel said she was skeptical of the story, thinking the boy may have found some Indian artifacts. She went to look and said she knew immediately the find was obviously not ancient artifacts because of the modern clothing with the bones. Investigators from the Island County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol combed the site Friday and Saturday, recovering an almost complete skeleton and articles of clothing from an area approximately 30 yards square. Sheriff Mike Hawley said the investigators had to search for the remains with extreme care since wildlife had scattered the bones over the past few years.On Monday, Island County Coroner Robert Bishop performed a forensic autopsy on the remains, during which he identified them as Moran's. He said the gender, race and physical age of the skeleton, in addition to articles of clothing found at the Bayview site, all confirm that the remains are Moran's.It is her, Bishop said Tuesday.However, the autopsy gave Bishop no clues as to how Moran died. He found no signs of trauma on the skeleton. No soft tissue remains on the bones, so Bishop was unable to examine organs or muscles for possible causes of death. He said he will begin a more in-depth examination of the remains this week.The sheriff's office notified Moran's family of the discovery Saturday, and held a press conference at the Bayview Park and Ride lot.Pam Degamo, Linda's cousin and leader of many searches for Moran during the past four years, attended the press conference. She said she knew the body was Moran's when she received a call from Island County Detective Sgt. Russ Lindner.It doesn't take an Einstein to figure it out, she said. We've been waiting for this call for four-and-a-half years.On Monday, Degamo's beliefs were confirmed.We knew it was her, she said. It brings us closure in one aspect.Moran's family searched the area around the Bayview Exxon numerous times. They and Bill Moran also spent thousands of dollars posting Linda's photograph and information about her disappearance in public places throughout the area.Although Linda Moran is no longer missing, in a sense there is still no closure for her family. Degamo said she wants to know how and why her cousin died. She still suspects foul play. Bill Moran was considered a person of interest by the Island County Sheriff's office, but he repeatedly denied killing his wife, both on TV and in a 1997 South Whidbey Record interview. He was never charged with a crime. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Moran his wife was mentally ill at the time of her disappearance and was suicidal the night she disappeared. Degamo said Linda Moran never would have run away because she would not leave her 8-year-old son behind.Bill Moran divorced Linda Moran two years ago. Still, Friday's discovery shocked him.I'm upset that my wife is gone now, he said.What upset Moran even more is the fact that the Island County Sheriff's Office was unable to find Linda Moran when she disappeared. He charged that the sheriff's office had a delayed response, even though he told them that she might be suicidal. Having her remains discovered so close to the Bayview Exxon confirms his suspicions that the investigation into her disappearance was handled badly.They really botched things up, Moran said.Deputies searched the area around the Bayview Exxon with dogs twice in 1997 in hopes of finding the woman. Hawley said he doesn't know if the search included the property where Moran's remains were found. The dogs were interested in a wooded area on the opposite side ofBayview Road, Hawley said. However, no trace of Moran was ever found in that portion of the search area.Law enforcement barred the media Friday and Saturday from the Bayview Road scene where Linda Moran's skeleton was found. Sheriff Hawley said investigators wanted to make certain the scene would not be contaminated. He also said a renter living on the property asked that the media be kept away from the scene.Record editor Jim Larsen contributed to this story. "

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