CALDWELL, Ohio - For the second time this month, investigators in Noble County have discovered a man's body in a shallow grave in Stock Township.
Hours before that discovery was announced Friday, authorities in Summit County, Ohio, found a body in a shallow grave near an Akron mall. That death is believed to be linked to a murder-and-robbery scheme involving a phony Craigslist ad for a job in Noble County, where earlier this month one man was shot and wounded by two suspects and another was found buried in a shallow grave in Stock Township.
A statement from the Noble County Sheriff's Office did not directly link the body of an unidentified white male found Friday morning with the ongoing investigation. However, FBI special agent Vicki Anderson, with the bureau's Cleveland office, acknowledged a connection seems likely.
"Do we think it could be? Sure we do. This is highly coincidental," she said. "But we can't definitively say."
Noble County Sheriff Steve Hannum could not be reached for comment, but the statement said his office would not be releasing any more information at this time. A gag order was issued for the case after an attorney for one of the suspects, a 16-year-old student at Stow-Munroe Falls High School in the Akron area, requested it.
The boy has been charged with attempted murder. His alleged accomplice, 52-year-old Richard Beasley of Akron, has not been charged but is in jail on unrelated charges.
The sheriff's statement does not provide specific details on when, where or how the latest body was located, only that it was found before noon Friday in Stock Township. No identification was found with the body, which was taken to the Licking County Coroner's Office for an autopsy. No one at that office could be reached for comment early Friday evening.
Stock Township resident Duane Dimmerling, 45, said he saw a helicopter and authorities' vehicles Friday as he was working with his cattle in the area of Don Warner Road, where the body of 51-year-old Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley was found in a shallow grave nearly two weeks ago.
"You hear about it on the news but never think it would happen in your community," Dimmerling said.
"I travel that road quite often," he said. "And probably the last eight years, I've met not five vehicles traveling on that road.
"Somebody scouted the area pretty well," Dimmerling said, adding that he wondered how the suspects chose this area in the first place.
Anderson said the body found in Akron is scheduled for an autopsy in Summit County at 8 a.m. today. She said she could not discuss how authorities located the body.
"We obtained some information, and we acted upon that information," she said.
Prior to the announcement about the body in Noble County, authorities were working on the supposition that the body found in Akron could be that of Massillon resident Timothy Kern. The 47-year-old has been missing for nearly two weeks, after he responded to the online ad, which his family said promised him $300 a week, a trailer and a truck.
Authorities first learned of the plot after a South Carolina man who responded to the ad emerged from the woods near Fulda, Ohio, after seven hours of hiding from the suspects. He reportedly met them at a Marietta restaurant before being taken to what they said was the jobsite.
As they got out of the vehicle to walk, the man said he heard a gun being cocked and pushed it away. He was shot in the arm as he fled.
A woman who heard about that attack contacted the Noble County Sheriff's Office later that week to say her brother responded to a similar ad. Investigators returned to the area where the South Carolina man was shot, on Don Warner Road near Ohio 260 in Stock Township, and eventually discovered Pauley's body.
The FBI has contacted people who responded to the ad but were not brought to the area, Anderson said. While there seems to be a good chance one of the bodies is Kern's, there isn't anyone right now who fits the bill for the other one.
"We haven't been notified of anybody else that responded to (the) ad that has not been seen," she said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)