Police: Va. body may be that of Butler County fugitive

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators say a body found near a Virginia park may be that of a southeast Missouri man who fled after being charged with child sodomy.

Hikers found a human skull with an apparent gunshot wound Sunday in a secluded area close to Hungry Mother State Park near Marion, Va., and law officers discovered the rest of the remains Monday, the Smyth County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office said.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Wednesday that a passport and other evidence found at the scene indicate the body is likely that of John Dunivan, who went missing more than a year ago. Missouri authorities have sent forensic information to a Virginia medical examiner’s office to try to confirm the identity and cause of death.

Pending that examination, the case is being treated as "a suspicious death," sheriff’s office investigator Bill Eller said Wednesday.

Dunivan, the former Butler County clerk, was 61 years old when he was charged in July 2007 in neighboring Ripley County with first-degree statutory sodomy involving an 11-year-old girl.

According to a probable cause statement by a Highway Patrol officer, the girl told investigators that she had oral sex with Dunivan "too many times to count" at numerous locations, including at Dunivan’s Ripley County property, in Poplar Bluff and at a motel in Jefferson City, which is about 250 miles to the northwest.

A 12-year-old girl also told investigators that Dunivan had touched her genitals on the outside of her clothing, according to the probable cause statement, but that incident did not result in the sodomy charge.

On July 16, 2007, Dunivan mailed an envelope postmarked from Bristol, located on the Tennessee and Virginia border, according the Missouri authorities. Four days later, his Toyota truck was found on Interstate 81 near Marion.

A "wanted" bulletin issued that same day by Missouri authorities said the truck’s Missouri license plates had been replaced with South Carolina ones and that some camping gear had been removed from the vehicle. The bulletin described Dunivan as suicidal and possibly armed with two handguns.

The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office said the skull found there appeared to have a gunshot wound. The badly decomposed body was found with a handgun nearby under several layers of brush in what appeared to be a "survivalist-type emergency shelter," Eller said. The site was about 1½ miles from where his truck had been found.

Dunivan had been featured on the television show "America’s Most Wanted" in April.

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