Remains found near downtown Fairmont, possible connection to 2020 missing person case

·2 min read

Jan. 4—FAIRMONT — Remains found on Washington Street may be connected to the 2020 missing person case of Bertha Sistrunk.

The 78-year-old woman from East Side was reported missing in October 2020. Now, over a year later, a report by the Fairmont City Police says there are similarities between these remains and the description of Sistrunk.

According to a press release from the city, "the remains and items located match the description of Bertha Sistrunk. ... There are no immediately obvious signs of trauma."

The remains have been sent to the medical examiner in Charleston for an autopsy and further identification confirmation. William Campbell, a nephew of Sistrunk, said that over the last year, the family had lost hope of getting any good news about her disappearance.

"As time goes on, you lose hope of the best scenario that she'll be found alive somewhere, then you transition to wanting closure," Campbell said. "That's what's in our minds as we begin to get closure on this, and we begin to move on."

While the police's release points to possible parallels between the remains they found and Sistrunk, Campbell and the rest of her family await full confirmation from the medical examiner.

"It certainly does appear to be a match, even though the police can't do a total confirmation until the autopsy comes back," Campbell said. "We expect it to just be a couple of days before we get the absolute confirmation."

Campbell and his family want to thank all the work done by volunteers, police, detectives and the city in the effort over the last year to find Sistrunk.

"My aunt touched a lot of lives, and it was very clear by all people who reached out and came to help," Campbell said. "The detectives have stayed in touch with us on a very consistent basis."

Family members reported Sistrunk missing to the police on Oct. 2, 2020 and issued a Silver Alert for her whereabouts. Police have since employed search methods including ground searches, canine search teams, dive teams and drone searches.

There are still many unanswered questions that the family hopes the autopsy will answer for them, such as cause of death and whether foul play was involved.

"There are a lot of things our family will go over in our minds, primarily to try to make sure that if anything like this — God forbid — were to happen again, we do the best job we can," Campbell said. "Hopefully we learn from this apparent tragedy."

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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