WARRENSBURG — A joint investigation with the University of Central Missouri Department of Public Safety and the Warrensburg Police Department resulted in the arrests of two suspects Friday regarding the body of an infant found on Tuesday in a cave at Pertle Springs, located a few miles south of UCM.
Latasha Wilson, 19, of Warrensburg, was formally charged with abandonment of a corpse, and Zakary Carter, 20, of Warrensburg, has been formally charged with tampering with physical evidence. Wilson is a student at UCM. They are being held at the Johnson County Jail, but no information about bond was available at press time.
“The arrests are a result of the community responding to the request for assistance posted in the media, and the partnership of UCM Police, Warrensburg Police and the Johnson County Prosecuting Attorney,” states a news release from the Warrensburg Police Department.
Jeff Murphy, Assistant Director of UCM Media Relations, said the arrests were the result of a call from someone who had information regarding the case.
An autopsy performed by the Warrensburg Police Department on Wednesday determined the infant is Caucasian and was possibly born within the last few weeks. Investigators had asked for the public’s help in obtaining information about a near full-term pregnant woman who planned to give birth sometime in the February to early March 2014 time-frame and may have had suspicious circumstances surrounding the birth.
No other information has been released from the autopsy.
The arrests were made based on current evidence, and, according to the release, “authorities await the results of the autopsy and will continue to further investigate to determine if additional charges will be filed.”
Two UCM biology students, Eva Gann and Travis Lyon, were conducting research late Tuesday afternoon in a research cave at Pertle Springs, a public recreational area owned by UCM in Warrensburg, when they discovered the infant remains inside the cave.
The discovery was reported Tuesday, but Gann had also made a report to the UCM Department of Public Safety on Feb. 17 regarding vandalism at the cave.
According to the UCM Incident Report, Gann reported to Public Safety at 4:53 p.m. Feb. 17 that “person(s) unknown had caused damage to the biology department’s research cave located at Pertle Springs by damaging the lock and burning a small fire inside the cave.” The report did not indicate if Public Safety investigated the area.
Gann and Lyon told the Muleskinner, UCM’s student newspaper, they noticed the lock had been broken on a door securing the cave and there was a trash bag inside filled with what they assumed at the time was burned trash. The students had not returned to the cave until Tuesday due to the weather, and upon returning the pair noticed a foul smell.
Upon further investigation they found what appeared to be human remains inside the trash bag and then notified authorities.
“It’s good to see progress has been made,” Murphy said. “We’re certainly glad two individuals are in custody and we appreciate the work of the Warrensburg Police Department and the UCM Department of Public Safety who collaborated on the case.”
Anyone that may have additional information regarding the case should contact the Warrensburg Police Department Detective Division at 747-9133.