Originally created 08/28/00

Autopsy fails to identify body



AIKEN - An autopsy performed Sunday on the badly decomposed body of a woman found in a pine thicket the day before failed to positively identify her, the Aiken County coroner said.

But several people in the neighborhood where her remains were discovered think they know who she was.

Police would not confirm the residents' suspicions that the woman found lying about 100 yards behind a shed on Edgefield Highway was Connie Quattlebaum, who has been missing since July 10.

Coroner Sue Townsend tentatively identified the woman Sunday, but she would not release a name until more X-rays are taken. Because the body was badly decomposed, Mrs. Townsend said, there were no obvious signs of what caused her death.

Authorities have pulled dental records, but Mrs. Townsend said the records were too old and inadequate to make a positive identification.

"Apparently, the dental records were about 20 years old, and (the woman) had enough work done to make it unable to get a positive ID," Aiken County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Michael Frank said.

Neither Lt. Frank nor Mrs. Townsend would say whose dental records they pulled.

If more recent dental information is not available, toxicology tests will have to be used for identification. The coroner said she could not rely on fingerprints because of the state of the body.

Two boys four-wheeling on a wooded path found the remains at about 1 p.m. Saturday. At first, they mistook the body for a dead animal, but then they saw clothes, said a neighbor who called 911.

Investigators said they believe the woman died at least 30 days ago.

Some residents who live along South Carolina Highway 19 said they were told by police that the remains were those of Ms. Quattlebaum, 33, of Bent Arrow Road. She has been missing for seven weeks and lives only three-quarters of a mile from where the body was found.

Her common-law husband, John Coffey, waited two weeks before notifying police of her disappearance, but that's because Ms. Quattlebaum has left home in the past but always before called to let someone know she was OK, Lt. Frank said.

No one has heard from her this time.

Deputies scoured the woods for hours Saturday for evidence that might tell them how the woman died, but Lt. Frank would not say what items were taken from the scene.

Until authorities are sure how the woman died, they are handling it as a "death investigation," he said. If the evidence points to a slaying, the case will be handled as a homicide, he said.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland and Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augusta chronicle.com.



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