GREELEY, Colo. — Police retrieved a decomposed body from an irrigation ditch in northern Colorado on Wednesday, about a half-mile from the home of a missing sixth-grader.
There was no immediate indication of whether it was the body of 12-year-old Kayleah Wilson, who was last seen walking March 28 to a friend’s house for a birthday party.
“We are unable to make an identification at this time,” Sgt. Joe Tymkowych said. “The decomposition is to the point where it’s difficult to say whether it’s a male or a female.”
Tymkowych said investigators couldn’t rule out that the body was the brown-haired, blue-eyed Wilson, described as about 5-foot-1 and 145 pounds. “Given the size of the person and its state of decomposition, it’s a possibility,” he said.
A worker checking the ditch for problems after heavy rain Tuesday found the body in about 3 feet of water early Wednesday, Tymkowych said.
Tymkowych wouldn’t comment on how long officers believe the body was at that spot. Searchers had checked the ditch at least twice before while looking for Kayleah, he said. Investigators planned to use dental records and possibly DNA and hair fibers to identify the body.
Identifying the body through dental records could take days, but it could take weeks if investigators must use DNA, FBI spokesman Dave Joly said.
A few of Kayleah’s friends and residents gathered at the ditch as officers walked along it searching for evidence on Wednesday afternoon. Investigators found what appeared to be a scrap of clothing in the ditch.
“Whether that particular piece of evidence at the scene is related to the case, we still don’t know,” Tymkowych said, adding that investigators also found a coffee cup and other items he would not disclose. “Anything that’s not a weed or a rock or piece of dirt, we picked it up.”
Kayleah’s friend Shelly Culver, 18, described Kayleah as outgoing and said she loved to draw. “Kayleah would not be the kind of person to run away.”
Melissa Lynch, 31, whose daughter goes to school at nearby Frontier Academy, said, “To a lot of us that live here that have kids, it’s more than just ‘that Greeley girl.’”
A victim’s advocate at the home of Kayleah’s mother, April Wilson, said Wilson declined to comment Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Samantha Abernethy contributed to this report.