Investigators are trying to determine what happened to a woman whose remains were found inside a suitcase Sunday afternoon in Egg Harbor Township. A local police officer was hunting on privately owned land not far from Harbor Square, the former Shore Mall, in the township’s Cardiff section at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday when he made the discovery and called police, authorities said.
The state Medical Examiner’s Office collected the remains and is completing an autopsy with help from a forensic anthropologist due to the advanced decomposition. The victim’s age and race have not yet been determined.
To help identify the victim, photos of tattoos on the victim — one on her right wrist and the other on the top of her right foot — were released by acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain. Due to the graphic nature of the photos, The Press is publishing them only with this story online at PressofAtlanticCity.com.
Investigators from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Egg Harbor Township Police Department were on the scene Monday morning, carefully combing through dirt under the cover of a tent. Much of their work was hidden behind brush. Police tape and a police van blocked access to the scene.
By 6:30 p.m., investigators were gone, and no police tape remained at the spot on the curve of the unlit street. There was a line tied to block the area, which is private property.
McClain did not want details of how the body was found released, spokeswoman Haleigh Walz said.
Police confirmed the body was found by Sgt. Mark Ciambrone of the Margate City Police Department.
Bill Sparkes, who is with the Nature Preservation Council that owns some of the land nearby, said the Margate officer is the only person he knows who is allowed to hunt deer on the land owned by Betty Simon Trustee LLC. He said he often has to chase others away who try to hunt there.
The company declined to comment on the incident.
“I’m assuming he’s the one who found the body,” Sparkes said.
An autopsy to determine cause of death had not yet been completed Monday evening.
An Egg Harbor Township evidence van, police vehicle and other cars were parked at the curve where the road turns into Ninth Avenue on Monday morning.
Kathy Philip, who has lived on Broadway about 15 years, said her 16-year-old son normally catches the school bus at the curve where the street turns to Ninth Avenue.
After seeing police still on the scene this morning, he stayed in front of their home, where the bus driver picked him up.
“We saw them last night, but we weren’t nosy enough to come down and check it out,” Philip said. “It’s a good area back here.”
Anthony Cortes Jr. said kids play back along the road and ride bikes or ATVs. But he said it also has been something of a dumping area for trash. He was shocked at the thought of a homicide victim being left there among the debris.
“I can’t believe that people do that to each other,” he said.
Anyone who may have information is asked to call the Major Crimes Unit at 609-909-7666.
Staff writer Anjalee Khemlani contributed to this report.
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