Originally created 02/28/04

USC-Aiken students discover body



AIKEN - Two USC-Aiken students walked into Hitchcock Woods early Saturday morning on a high-tech treasure hunt and stumbled into a real mystery.

Tim Meesseman and Carl Williams, both 20, were using a global positioning system to find hidden items in an adventure game known as geocaching.

Instead they found the remains of a skeleton.

"At first I saw a skull and then I looked and saw a few decomposing bones next to it," Mr. Meesseman said. "We couldn't believe it."

The two were searching near Dribble Road, using the GPS to find the longitude and latitude of the hidden cache. The coordinates are found on a Web site, www.geocaching.com, and 28 caches are hidden in the Aiken-Augusta area.

"After I saw the bones, we saw a pair of Nike tennis shoes about five feet from the skull," Mr. Meesseman said. "It looked like they were from the 1980's or something. It had definitely been there a while."

Lt. Michael Frank, spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, said it is unclear how long the remains had been in the woods, but said an autopsy and a forensic reconstruction will be done to try to identity the person.

"Right now we don't know much. There wasn't enough information at the scene to determine if foul play was involved," he said. "It could be weeks before we know more."

Patrick King, of Aiken, a regular on the geocache circuit, said he'd heard of unusual finds during hunts, but nothing like this.

"I've heard of people finding strange things like underwear, but I don't think I've ever heard of anyone finding a body."

Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395.