Positive identification of found body still pending

NEW CUMBERLAND – The pictures of Anthony “Tony” Pittman distributed by his family in the 32 days that he was missing showed him holding a Rubik’s Cube, with a solved Rubik’s Cube sitting next to him.

The day he turned 16, his family gave him a Rubik’s Cube birthday cake. A picture on the “Help us find Tony Pittman” Facebook page showed him standing behind the cake in the kitchen, grinning broadly.

Other pictures showed him posing with friends, taking a selfie and as a young boy spending time with his grandparents.

Those memories and photographs are all that family members and friends have left of the young man who had been missing since May 29, the day he didn’t show up at Oak Glen High School. Hancock County sheriff’s deputies found what they believe to be Pittman’s body in a ravine following a renewed ground search on Monday.

Pittman’s disappearance prompted a month-long search that extended as far as North Carolina and drew on the resources of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher said there was nothing specific that took investigators back to the rural, wooded area north of New Cumberland that they had covered with volunteers four weeks earlier.

“Sometimes the most logical thing to do is to go back and start over,” Fletcher said. “Because of the terrain, it must have been missed before.”

Fletcher believes that Pittman was there, about 300 yards from his family’s property, the whole time. “It appears it was just a skip day (from school) and that he was by himself,” he said.

Although the sheriff’s department is awaiting a cause of death and positive identification from the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office, all signs point to the body found on Monday being Pittman’s, Fletcher said. “The materials found at the scene, the clothing, everything points to (Pittman),” he said.

“It’s not the outcome we were hoping for. We truly were hoping this was a case of a runaway, someone not wanting to be found,” Fletcher said. “Our hearts really go out to the family.”

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)