Police find 2 skeletons, search for person of interest in arson and homicides | News

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Police find 2 skeletons, search for person of interest in arson and homicides

ST. MARYS, Ga. -- After a suspicious boat fire in which the skeletal remains of two individuals were found, the St. Marys Police Department is looking for a person of interest.

In the early morning hours Monday, the St. Marys Police Department was called to the St. Marys Boat Yard after an "emergency 911 open line call with suspicious audible sounds overheard by the duty Communication Officer," according to a news release from the St. Marys Police Department.

When police got to the boat yard, they saw a boat fifty to seventy-five yards off shore on fire.

The St. Marys Fire Department, Camden County Search and Rescue and Georgia Department of Natural Resources also responded to the boat yard.

Camden County Search and Rescue searched the area for anyone who may have abandoned the boat. They searched the waterway, marsh lands and shore lines along North River but never found anyone.

Officers did find a small dingy that had capsized. The release said they believe this belongs to the owner of the boat. When authorities investigated the small boat, they found it had been charred on the hull and mooring line. Police believe these were burnt from where it was tied to the larger boat.

Search and rescue vessels maneuvered the burning boat closer to the dock so fire department personnel could extinguish the blaze.  After the fire was put out, the boat was moved back into the docking area.

Once it was determined the boat was safe, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Scene Specialist began processing it for evidence.

When the Crime Scene Specialist was processing the boat, they found a charred human skeleton. The remains were taken to the Camden County Coroners Office for storage. After that, they were brought to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner's Office to be identified.

According to a Wednesday release from the St. Marys Police Department, the preliminary investigation by the Medical Examiner's Office revealed that there were not one but two skeletons. The evidence was also sufficient enough to rule their deaths a homicide.

The release said arriving officers were not able to find the boat owner, Karen Shaye Barnes (Trauger). While they were searching for her, they were directed to a neighboring boat owned by Larry Ford.

Police had been told Ford was aboard his boat and knew Karen Barnes. When police searched his boat, they found he too was missing from the area.

When police conducted interviews of people at the boat yard, the release said, and combined them with the audible recording from the open line 911 call, they believe it is possible Barnes and Ford were on board the boat when the fire started. The release said there was no confirmation of Ford being on board the boat.

According to the Wednesday update, it is still uncertain if the two sets of skeletal remains are male or female or if they are that of Barnes and Ford.

As police continued their investigation, they learned Barnes and her ex-husband, David Trauger, were involved in a dispute over the boat when Barnes was awarded the boat in a divorce settlement.

Prior to the boat fire, the release said Trauger was known to be in the St. Marys area. Trauger is a suspect in a burglary and criminal damage involving the boat that happened in July 2012.

The parties were scheduled to be in court August 14, the release said, in connection with ownership of the boat.

Police have issued local, state and national bulletins in an attempt to locate Trauger. He is being sought in connection to the July burglary and as a person of interest in the boat fire.

The release said there is no confirmation that Barnes and Ford are deceased. Police are still looking for them and the release said they are considered to be endangered and missing.

Trauger is described as a 67-year-old white male, 160-175 pounds, with a slender build. He was last seen on foot near Interstate 95 exit 1 in Georgia wearing a black cap and black clothing.

Police said he is an avid boater and owns numerous properties along the east coast. Trauger is also considered by law enforcement to be armed and dangerous and is the primary suspect in the double homicide/arson case.

If you have any information that may be able to help police, you are asked to call the St. Marys Police Department at 912-882-4488 or the Camden County Consolidated Dispatch Center at 912-729-1442.


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