ST. GEORGE — Tuesday marks one full year since human remains were found buried a few miles south of St. George, prompting a homicide investigation that has yet to yield answers for a family left in limbo.
Nearly two years ago, Jerry and Susan McFalls went missing from their rustic desert home in northwestern Arizona. After nine months of exhaustive searches by family, friends, supporters and law enforcement turned up no leads, two bodies were found buried off a dirt road not far from the Utah border along Interstate 15 in Mohave County, Arizona, on Oct. 15, 2018.
One of the bodies was identified as Susan McFalls based on a medical device found in her leg, but the other body required further analysis to identify. The remains were sent to a DNA lab for analysis, but — one year later — they remain unidentified.
While the McFalls family has said they fully anticipate the other body to be identified as Jerry McFalls, the wait for solid answers has nevertheless been “heartbreaking.”
“Our goal from day one has been to bring them home and celebrate their lives as they so deserved,” Meridee McFalls, the couple’s daughter-in-law, told St. George News. “Knowing that they are still just sitting somewhere a year later and not laid to rest is definitely heartbreaking.”
She said authorities have told the family that the laboratory had a large backlog at the time the remains were sent.
“The lab that is processing the DNA supposedly have 3,600 DNA in queue, and dad’s is in there somewhere,” Meridee McFalls said. “Hopefully soon we will have answers.”
The homicide investigation is being led by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, which is relying on the lab to complete its DNA analysis of the other body.
“The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has no control over the time frame of the identification process of the second set of remains,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anita Mortensen said. “This is the responsibility of the medical examiner at the laboratory where the remains were sent.”
Nevertheless, Mortensen said the case is still active and ongoing, though any breaks in the case have been kept under wraps.
“For the integrity of the investigation, there is no information that can be released at this time,” she said.
In the meantime, Meridee McFalls said the extended McFalls family has been suffering emotionally.
“This wait since they were found seems so much harder,” she said. “At least before they were found we felt like we were helping move the case forward by searching ourselves. Definitely hard to lose loved ones, but this wait takes it to a whole new level.”
Jerry and Susan McFalls were both 62 years old when they disappeared seemingly without a trace in January 2018. Sheriff’s deputies searching their property found the couple’s vehicles, pets, phones, money and other personal items undisturbed.
An extensive search effort and investigation ensued in the months after their disappearance up until the remains were found, spurred largely by family and other people who had befriended the McFalls in life.
“Jerry and Susan were simple people who preferred to stay out of the spotlight but were always there to help anyone in need in silence,” Meridee McFalls said. “They’d give the shirt off their back if someone needed it more and enjoyed being retired and doing their own thing. It’s terrible that someone took that away from them and did not see all the good they had done in their lives.
“It’s definitely been trying to keep positive in such a negative situation, but we continue to push and move forward praying answers will be coming soon.”
The Sheriff’s Office is still following up on any and all leads in the case, Mortensen said.
“We have been and are continuing to encourage the public to call if they have any information regarding this case,” she said.
Ed. note: On first publish, this report referred to the FBI as the entity responsible for analyzing the DNA. The FBI is solely processing the evidence in relation to the criminal investigation, and the DNA is being analyzed by an independent laboratory not affiliated with the FBI.
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