Missing Man Found Murdered - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/25/03

Missing Man Found Murdered

Two suspects are in custody in connection with the murder of a missing Gulfport man, whose skeletal remains were found buried behind a Gulfport home. Police say more arrests are expected.

Today, Police arrested 42-year-old Laura Suzette Tharpe and 52-year-old Donald Osby, both of Gulfport. Both are charged with accessory after the fact.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove identifies the victim as 50-year-old Kenneth Kirtland. Hargrove said Kirtland died from stab wounds to the chest. Kenneth Kirtland's family reported him missing on September 21, 2002.

The investigation started with a call to Crime Stoppers. A tipster led police to the 500 block of 26th 1/2 Street in the Magnolia Grove Community. On Friday, Police got a search warrant and started searching the backyard around 4 p.m. Police found human skeletal remains buried in a shallow grave a few hours later.

Saturday, police explored in and around the hole that was dug Friday night. Police searched for more remains and possibly other victims. Neighbors in the area say they have heard rumors of a body buried in the yard, but never gave them a second thought.

In the backyard through the brush of the woods you could see investigators digging for clues, while in the front yard James Earl Haynes tried to remember anything he can about his neighbor.

"It's hard to believe that I'm living next door to people that would kill somebody and bury them in their back yard," Haynes said.

So unbelievable, in fact, that Haynes discarded the rumors he heard that someone was buried in the yard.

"My next door neighbor said she had heard about it a while back that somebody had killed a man and buried him in the back yard, but she didn't believe it, she didn't think nothing like that would happen around here," Haynes said.

Haynes lived in the neighborhood most of his life. He moved away for a short time, but returned to the community.

"Just like a big family all together. Everybody around here is church going people. We all get along good together, you would never think something like that would happen here, right behind my house," Haynes said.

"Using a cadaver dog we were able to come out here and pin point a spot where a body may be buried at," Ben Taylor of Gulfport Police said.

It's clear where the body was buried, but what's not clear is who buried it there, or even who the house belongs to.

"[The house] was rented out for some period of time, and right now we're not exactly sure who it belongs to," Taylor said.

As police continue to literally dig up clues for the case, they are searching for other possible victims as well, but hope their search will end here.

If you have any other information on this case, please call 868-5959.

By Nathan Mihelich

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