Rumors are flying throughout the county concerning the dismembered body parts — a hand and a head — discovered in a pond near Elgin last Friday. Everything from two or three people having disappeared in recent weeks to “extra’’ body parts being found in the pond are among the rumors circulating — rumors that seem to grow more bizarre hour by hour.
And what does the “Major Crime Team’’ investigating the case of a hand and a head being found in a pond have to say?
Fear of a possible serial killer on the loose seems to be gripping the community. Rumors continue to build. Blogs have up to three people missing in Elgin. People logically look to The Observer for answers, and all we’ve been able to tell them is ... well, not much, based on the word we’ve received from the crime team and District Attorney Tim Thompson, who is supposed to be the person who provides information about the case.
Here’s what Thompson, who is out of the office this week in spite of the fact the county might be faced with its worst crime case in decades, has released so far:
• A hand was found in a Boise Cascade pond near Elgin.
• The identify of the hand belonged to that of one Shannon Marie McKillop, aka Shannon Marie Sloan, 51, of Elgin. The identity was released only after The Observer told both Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen and the DA’s office Wednesday morning that we had solid information that family had been notified of the victim’s identity. Sheriff Rasmussen called us late Wednesday morning to confirm the identity. An hour after our press deadline the DA’s office issued a two-sentence press release confirming the identity.
• That the case is being treated as a homicide and that no further information would be released.
In the meantime, rumors are running rampant. Extreme rumors. The kind of rumors that would incite fear in almost anyone.
What has the crime team investigating this case done to allay the fears? Absolutely nothing. All participants are under a gag order, as agreed upon by the crime team. The team says it doesn’t want to do anything to hinder the investigation.
We understand that. The Observer doesn’t want to do anything to hinder the investigation, either. But we think our public safety folks also need to think about the public in instances like this. Thankfully, we don’t have many of these bizarre cases, and perhaps that’s why the DA and the crime team apparently don’t sense the urgency or fear that is spreading through our community. But this county already has a longstanding reputation for unsolved murders. Keeping the public informed and asking for its help isn’t a bad idea.
Are there other people missing? Were parts from more than one body found in the pond? Does the public need to take extra precautions? A few words about the status of the case would be welcome by the public — words carefully chosen that won’t jeopardize the investigation.
We can only hope the crime team handles the investigation better than it’s been able to keep the public informed about public safety issues.