Hunters found skeletal remains in the same national forest where a 24-year-old hiker disappeared months ago, officials said.
Now, the remains are believed to belong to the missing woman, Cassie Sheetz, according to West Virginia State Police.
Sheetz was hiking with two men in the Monongahela National Forest before she vanished on March 11. Police said she was last seen in Pendleton County near Spruce Knob, the state’s highest peak and the site of an observation tower.
The remains were found nearby on Wednesday, Dec. 29. Hunters reportedly stumbled upon them in the Seneca Creek area of the mountainous national forest, which spans more than 919,000 acres across the eastern part of West Virginia, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Police in a news release didn’t say how the person died.
“The remains have been sent to the West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification,” officials wrote on Dec. 31. “This investigation remains active and ongoing.”
Police said “items located at the scene” led them to believe the person was Sheetz.
“It’s devastated our family,” the 24-year-old’s mom, Arlene Shelton, told WDTV after police made the announcement. “It’s not fair. I’d give anything to trade places with her.”
At the time that Sheetz vanished, she was a mother of three living in Upper Tract, a community in Pendleton County, according to police and news outlets.
Three months into her disappearance, Shelton said relatives had searched but couldn’t find signs of her daughter. She told WHSV that Sheetz would never have gone on a difficult hike without being prepared.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that someone could just disappear off the face of the Earth with no word, no contact, no nothing for 6 months,” Shelton told WDTV in September. “She wouldn’t go a day without texting or calling me and we’ve heard nothing.”
A Facebook user believed to be Shelton didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Dec. 31.