ST. FRANCISVILLE — Brush-hogging has been a fairly routine activity for the past 40 years for Lee Willie Swan, but on Sunday, whacking overgrown grass came with an unexpected shock when the 59-year-old worker stumbled upon the skeletal remains of an unidentified person near the Old Ferry Landing.
“I was backing up — after having just made a cut — when I saw the leg bone,” Swan said Monday.
Although he was pretty sure it was a human bone, Swan said it was after he made another pass with his brush hog and unearthed a human skull that his suspicions were confirmed.
“Once I got down and saw the skeletal head, I took my foot and rolled it over to make sure it was human,” he said. “When I rolled it over, I could see what looked like a tongue. That’s when I knew for sure.”
Swan, a parish employee who was moonlighting Sunday for a private company, didn’t panic (it wasn’t the first time in his life he’d seen a dead body, he says); he simply called his boss, who in turn called police.
“I been in this line of work since 1972. What are the chances of finding a body? It’s crazy,” he said.
Swan found the remains within the property’s overgrown shrubbery around 1 p.m. Sunday just north of the Old Ferry Landing.
The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Department said Monday that the remains were sent to the LSU FACES Lab for DNA testing and examination to determine the cause of death.
Authorities don’t expect to get results for a few days.
In a news release Monday, spokeswoman Erin Foster said authorities had no information regarding “the race, sex, age or ID of the body.”
But Swan said, from what he could tell, it looks like a man’s body.
“You could still see the clothes they had on; I saw the imprint of a wallet in his pocket,” he said.
Sunday wasn’t the first time Swan had worked the property. He said he last brush-hogged it a year ago and the remains weren’t there.
“(The body) had to be dumped there within that time frame,” Swan said.
Foster said the Sheriff’s Office has two unsolved missing persons cases, but made no indications Monday that this case was related to either of them.
The first case involves a Richland Parish man named Shaun Thornhill, who disappeared on the night of Jan. 24, 2012.
“He was staying in a hotel here and hasn’t been seen since,” Foster said. “His truck was found in Natchitoches several days later.”
Thornhill was 41 years old when he vanished, Foster said.
The second unsolved case involves a 77-year-old man named Glenn Tankersley, who was reported missing by his family on Dec. 5, 2002.
“We have never found anything on him,” Foster said.
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