By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Forensics scientists at the state crime lab have identified skeletal remains found in a wooded area of Conecuh County last December as those of a Virginia woman who disappeared while traveling to Monroeville in 2018.
According to an April 23 press release issued jointly by Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson, Conecuh County Sheriff Randy Brock, and Monroe County Sheriff Tom Boatwright, the remains are those of Shari Christina Saunders, who left Norfolk, Va. on August 4, 2018, headed to Monroeville to visit her family.
She never reached her destination. Saunders, who was 67 at the time she disappeared, was last seen alive around 1:11 a.m. on August 5, as she drove her red 2010 Toyota Corolla away from an Evergreen convenience store and headed toward Monroeville on U.S. Highway 84 after pumping $20 worth of gas.
A three-county search was launched when a nationwide missing person report was filed August 6 by worried family members.
The car was found nine days later, bogged down in the mud of a Conecuh County dirt road, by a father and son out riding four-wheelers.
A search of the area — involving 25 law enforcement officers, numerous volunteers, a helicopter and tracking dogs — was conducted jointly by Conecuh, Escambia and Monroe authorities. Several anonymous tips were phoned in and followed up on, but the Virginia woman’s body was not located.
Skeletal remains were discovered last December 26 in a wooded area off a gated private road in Conecuh County and submitted to the state crime lab in hopes that forensics tests might result in a positive identification.
State scientists positively ID’d the remains as those of the missing woman. The three area sheriffs said in their release that additional evidence is currently being evaluated by other forensic labs and that investigators from the three offices are working together, focusing on particular suspects and persons of interest.
“We would like to thank the community for their willingness to help in bringing this case closer to being solved and ask that you report anything that might be of evidentiary value,” the trio of lawmen said.