JASPER COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - New evidence in the case of the human remains found just north of the Erin community in Jasper County may help authorities identify the person.
Jasper County Sheriff Mitchel Newman said Tuesday morning that a duffel bag was found about a quarter mile away from where a hunter found the human remains on County Road 350 on Dec. 5. Newman said the duffel bag had Jonathan Smith's name on it in several places, and it contained numerous personal items, including a Bible with Smith's name on it.
"It makes you lean toward believing it's him," Newman said.
However, Newman stressed that they won't know for sure until they get the results back from a DNA analysis that will be conducted at a Texas Department of Public Safety forensics lab. He added that it could be as long as six months before they get the results back.
Newman said Smith, 37, has been missing since July of 2015. The sheriff explained that they obtained DNA samples from several of Smith's family members and said that he hopes that will help speed up the identification process.
Newman said the Jasper County Sheriff's Office has been searching for Smith for more than two years.
"We drained a lake, and we searched wells and septic tanks all over the county," Newman said. "This is the first break in the case that we've gotten so far."
In a previous interview, Newman said the JSCO received a phone call from a man in the evening of Dec. 5, and the caller said he found human remains when he was looking for a place to move his deer stand.
Newman said deputies went to County Road 350 in the Erin community and secured the scene. They came back after daylight Wednesday and recovered the remains with the assistance of the Texas Rangers.
Newman said they have no way of identifying the body and do not even know its gender.
In the previous interview, the sheriff said he would guess that the person had been dead for at least two years.