April 23, 2014

Skull not first remains discovered south of Gardner

Danedri Thompson

dthompson@gardnernews.com

A human skull found south of Gardner last week isn’t the first human remains to be found south of town.

At least three other bodies have been found within a few miles of the skull’s location in the past 20-plus years. Those cases have never been solved.

The bodies of Candice L. Fisher and Christina Brandolese were found south of Gardner within days of each other in 1989.

Law enforcement officers believe both women worked as prostitutes in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Brandolese was last seen entering a maroon Ford Pinto hatchback in the area of Independence Avenue and Garfield Street in Kansas City, Mo., at about 2:30 a.m. on May 29, 1989. Her burned body was discovered the following day, May 30, at the end of a driveway in the 2600 block of 199th Street south of Gardner.

Three days later, on June 2, 1989, Fisher’s nude body was discovered in a hedge row in the 25500 block of 191st Street. She was last seen at about 4 p.m. on May 29, 1989 in the area of 37th and Main streets in Kansas City, Mo.

Both women died from blunt trauma injuries, and police believe the murders are related.

Seven years later, a farmer found the body of Tawnya Knight southeast of Gardner in rural Johnson County.

The 15-year-old went missing six months before her skeletonized remains were discovered in a field in the 21000 block of U.S. 169 Highway. Knight vanished on Dec. 7, 1996, but her body wasn’t discovered until June 7, 1997.

She was last seen leaving the home of a high school friend in Spring Hill. Her murder has not been solved. Police do not believe the Brandolese and Fisher cases are related to Knight’s case. Though conducting an exhaustive search of the area where they skull was found, law enforcement officers are stopping short of saying they suspect foul play related to the human skull found in a field near Gardner Road and 213th Street.

Hunters found the skull on March 18 at about 3:30 p.m. Law enforcement has been combing the scene since then.

Master Dep. Rick Howell of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement intends to search a full mile section of the rural area where the skull was found. To date, they’ve covered approximately half of that. The search is on hold today, March 22, and through the weekend due to anticipated inclement weather.

The extensive law enforcement response to the skull is in stark contrast to the response generated by a human skull found in north Kansas City, Mo., earlier this month.

There, two teenagers discovered what appeared to be a human skull and teeth in a dry creek bed on March 5. Initially, police in Jackson County, Mo., believed they may have the remains of a homicide victim. The skull was sent to the county medical examiner, who then forwarded the skull to an anthropologist at Kansas State University. Within three days, police learned the skull belonged to a female of a historic or prehistoric area.

Local authorities will not say how old they believe the skull found south of Gardner is. However, Howell said the skull has been there long enough for grass to grow around it.  He also would not say whether the skull belonged to a male or female. He stopped short of calling the skull and search part of a criminal investigation.

“We’re not even to that point yet,” he said. “We’re not making any kind of comment about anything surrounding the skull until we are done with the search of the property.”

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