The Hill County Sheriff's Office is trying to identify human remains unearthed Saturday by a bulldozer behind a residence in North Havre.
Sheriff Greg Szudera said he could not speculate about how the person died or how the body ended up in the side of a gully near 15th Street North.
"There were no indications that the individual died from foul play, but I still can't rule that out until all the evidence is in place," he said this morning. "It appears from the initial observation that these remains have been there for quite some time."
The bones were discovered about 2:30 p.m. while brothers Rex and Norman Boucher were using a Scat Trak skidsteer to level some ground near their homes on the west end of 15th Street North.
Rex Boucher was operating the Scat Trak when he unearthed some of bones, his brother said Saturday.
"He was pretty freaked out. He had his daughter with him when the body rolled out," Norman Boucher said.
Norman Boucher called the Sheriff's Office, which immediately cordoned off a large area behind the brothers' trailer homes and shop. The gully is about a dozen feet south of the residences and is adjacent to a steep hill.
Szudera and three deputies searched for pieces of the skeleton, which were scattered in an area about 30 feet in length. Pink flags marked spots where bones were recovered.
"The different locations of the skeletal remains was caused by the operator of the (Scat Trak)," Szudera said. "He was moving dirt and picked up part of the skeleton, and was going to fill in some low areas behind his home and when he dropped the bucket to let the dirt out, and that's when part of the skeleton rolled out."
Deputies sifted the soil, searching for pieces of bone and other evidence. They recovered most of the skeleton, as well as a belt and pieces of fabric, Szudera said.
"The clothing was not that identifiable other than the fibers. The color of the skeleton and density of the bones indicates it has been there for a long period of time," he said.
The Sheriff's Office set up a trailer next to the area where the body was discovered so deputies could work around the clock to recover the remains.
"At this time, everything's under investigation," Szudera said at the scene on Saturday. "We're treating it as a serious crime scene until I get further information from the evidence collection process that indicates otherwise."
He said this morning that the recovery phase of the investigation was complete.
"We got as far as we're going to go at this time," Szudera said. "All the bones and remains will be logged in as evidence, and then we'll take it to the crime lab in Missoula for further processing."
The Sheriff's Office will continue to investigate the area where the skeleton was found, and will examine some historical records, he added.
"We're still going to survey the scene a little more intensely. Working in the daylight is better than at night under artificial lighting. We are going to look into this matter and examine missing person reports for the last 25 or 35 years," he said.
When asked whether he believed the person died within that time period, Szudera responded, "I don't want to speculate that much on it. It's going to take some good equipment to verify the age of the remains."
Szudera said it has not been determined who owns the land where the remains were recovered. The Baltrusch family owns much of the land adjacent to the Bouchers' property, Norman Boucher said.
Part of the property was once used to raise livestock, Szudera said.
"It used to belong to an Eddie Johnson years ago. At one time, just east of the location (where the bones were found), there were a bunch of swine and pig corrals," he said.