Authorities still await identification of remains found in Pike County –
By Patricia Beech –
Law enforcement officers searching for a missing elderly woman last week discovered alleged human remains on a rural property in the western part of Pike county.
Bernice Hayslip, age 77, of Adams County disappeared in August of 2016. Authorities say no one has reported her missing since that time, but both her retirement and Social Security pension checks have been cashed on a regular basis.
A tip from the Highland County Sheriff’s Office led Pike County officials to two locations where cadaver dogs discovered the remains in a burn pile. Thus far, the remains have not been positively identified as either human or animal.
Deputy William Stanberry, Investigator with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, said the county coroner had ordered anthropologist to come in and sift through the burn pile where the remains were found.
On Tuesday night, Nov. 28, deputies arrested Hayslip’s daughter, Tracy Sowards, 44, for credit card theft, saying she had allegedly been using Hayslip’s credit card.
Also arrested was Branden L. Friend, age 26, of Peebles. He is charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in connection to the alleged human remains discovered by detectives. Friend is being held on a $40,000 bond. Investigators say that Sowards and Friend are the only “persons of interest” in Hayslip’s disappearance.
A nearby neighbor said he doubted that the remains in the burn pit are Hayslip’s.
“I do know there have been some animals that died and stuff hit in the road that were thrown into that burn pile,” he told Channel 4 news in Columbus.
It will be up to the anthropologists and DNA experts to determine whether the remains are animal or human, and if they can be identified as Hayslip’s.
According to investigators on the case, Hayslip underwent a heart procedure last summer and was released into the care of her daughter.
Last month during a traffic stop in Highland County, authorities received a tip that Hayslip may have been murdered.
Deputy Stansberry began investigating, and even though he found no trace of Hayslip, he did find activity on her credit card, pension and social security payments.
Court documents indicate that Hayslip’s credit card was used at a Waverly Wal Mart in July 2017 by her daughter.
Sowards was arraigned Wednesday on a felony charge of misuse of a credit card, but Pike County prosecutors say more charges could be forthcoming.
Sowards is being held on $20,000 bond.