ELY — A forensics team that specializes in identifying human remains is helping search for evidence outside a rural Ely farmhouse once linked to a Marion man who went missing a year ago and is presumed the victim of a homicide.
A current homeowner referred questions about activity on the property to the Marion Police Department. Marion police Chief Harry Daugherty declined Thursday to provide details, but said his department is involved in a federal drug-related homicide investigation.
A spokesman for the University of Indianapolis said its archaeology and forensics team — made up of a professor and graduate students — was dispatched to the rural Ely site at the request of law enforcement.
“They are the go-to people whenever suspected human remains are discovered,” said Scott Hall, media relations director for the university. He declined to comment further.
Police say the disappearance of James Booher, 51, of Marion is considered a homicide and still is unsolved.
He was last seen in Cedar Rapids on May 31, 2014. An Operation Quickfind was issued June 3 after his sister reported him missing. His truck was found abandoned June 9.
Asked how many other homicide cases are active in Marion, police Lt. Scott Elam referred the question to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The forensics search team and law enforcement authorities were at 397 Nederhiser Road, northeast of Ely and just south west of Palisades-Kepler State Park.
According to federal documents, a man associated with Booher once lived at that address.
That man, 42-year-old Matthew B. Robbins, is currently in the custody of U.S. Marshals and awaiting a second trial on firearms charges.
According to an April 27 federal criminal complaint charging his former wife, 41-year-old Danielle Ayers, with perjury, Robbins lived at that address. While outlining charges against Ayers, the affidavit describes a text message exchange between Ayers and another person that concerns Booher.
The document states that Robbins and another man robbed Booher about June 1, 2014 — the day after police say he was last seen alive.
A second federal court document dated April 13, outlining a weapons case against Robbins, appears to make a further reference Booher.
The document states that about May 31, 2014, Robbins and a friend identified in documents as “D.B.” purchased meth from someone identified as “J.B.”
“They used the methamphetamine and later contacted J.B. to arrange for the purchase of a larger quantity of methamphetamine,” the document states.
Additionally, the trial document states that when J.B. went to Robbins’ home later that night, D.B. saw Robbins with a sawed-off shotgun.
A day or two afterward, another person — identified as J.G. — went to Robbins’ home looking for J.B. Robbins greeted J.G. at the door holding a .45 caliber handgun, the document shows.
According to the court document, authorities conducted a search at D.B.’s house in connection with the disappearance of J.B.
Authorities said Robbins later moved out of the Nederhiser Road home, but before doing so removed carpet, furnishings and fixtures — which he burned behind the house, records show.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said he was unable to provide a list of calls for police service to that home because the address is part of an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
Marion Lt. Elam said he could not comment on Robbins’ role in the investigation, if any.
Booher’s siblings said they have not spoken with Marion police about their brother’s case since February.
“They don’t tell us nothing,” said Dan Booher.
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