Authorities in Jackson County, Alabama, have identified one of two sets of skeletal remains found within days of each other in November.
Investigators have not yet ruled out foul play but the identity of the body found near the town of Hollywood on Nov. 18 has been confirmed as that of 53-year-old James Michael Eakin, Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said Wednesday.
"He'd been missing for several months and was identified by dental records," Harnen said. "We're still waiting on an autopsy."
Harnen said investigators are questioning people who had talked with Eakins last.
Circumstances made officials suspicious.
"Obviously, the body had been in the water for some time and there was a lot of decomposition," Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips said after the discovery of the body.
The body "had obviously been put into the creek at some point," the sheriff said. "It washed down to a little place where the creek bank opened up into a swampy area and we've had some flooding and I guess it washed out."
Another body was found near the town of Section just two days later — Nov. 20 — that Harnen said could be related to missing persons cases going back as far as 14 years ago.
"We had some young folks and they were walking through the woods and found something that looked like a skull to them," the chief deputy said. Authorities confirmed the skull as human and began looking themselves.
"We located numerous bones," Harnen said. "We couldn't determine at that point whether it was a man or woman. We're having to do DNA on that."
He said it's likely the body was that of a man who went missing from an assisted living facility 14 years ago, but there were other possibilities and other counties that have been in touch to see if the body matches any of their missing persons.
The pair of bodies found in November brought the total to three discovered in Jackson County in the last three months, a tally officials said was rare.
The body found in September was that of a man who'd only been missing a week before his body was discovered on Sept. 14. Brandon Blaine Berry was charged in the slaying of 30-year-old David Christen Lorenzo Rivamonte, who had been reported missing Sept. 8 to Huntsville police in neighboring Madison County.
An autopsy confirmed that the Huntsville man died of a gunshot wound. Court records state Rivamonte, whose body was buried in a hole on the property, was shot with a handgun sometime on Sept. 6 or 7, according to a report by Huntsville television station WAFF.
Officials said Berry was already in custody on unrelated charges when the body was positively identified and murder and kidnapping charges were filed.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.