|A scattering of bones around a rotted corpse, a handgun and a wristwatch are all that's left of suspected serial killer Melvin M. Keeling, officials said Wednesday.
Although a comparison of Keeling's dental records and the dead man's teeth was incomplete, FBI agents appear certain the body found by a West Side High School student is Keeling.
Officials speculated Keeling, 43, suspect in three slayings last month, killed himself shortly after ditching his van a half-mile away.
The van was found near 8th Avenue and Durbin Street early Sept. 20, the day after two Family Express clerks were shot to death in Remington, Ind.
Keeling has been charged with those homicides as well as the shooting death of 13-year-old Katelind Caudill near Cincinnati.
A nationwide manhunt for Keeling, featured twice on Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted," focused on Gary, where police had chased dozens of tips on what proved to be false sightings.
'I saw the ribs sticking out'
FBI agents searched a wooded area along railroad tracks where the van was found and recovered some identification belonging to Keeling. Agents had planned to return to look more this week.
As the sightings decreased after Keeling's killing spree ended, police began to think he was dead. As one investigator said, "For someone without much of a criminal history, he's a pretty good fugitive."
Then Wednesday, the body was found by a high school student sent home from class by the school nurse. Arlena Ivey, 15, said she was walking along the tracks when she caught a foul odor, then saw clothing.
Under a tree on a small, sandy hill appeared to be a body "wrapped up in a blanket," Ivey said. The smell grew stronger as she walked closer.
"I saw the ribs hanging out," she said. With that, Ivey said, she turned and ran. "I was running down the tracks as I was calling police," she said.
Soon the area was swarming with police, crime lab technicians, deputy coroners and FBI agents, who blocked off the tracks while they combed the area collecting bones and looking for additional evidence.
A .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun that belonged to Keeling was found near the body.