Remains identified as missing Presque Isle woman

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – The family of Tela Hart can now begin making final plans for their loved one, following the positive identification of remains found just over a week ago along the shore of the Aroostook River just off the Fort Road.
    “The Presque Isle Police Department received notification today (May 23) from James Ferland, administrator of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta, that the Maine State Police Laboratory confirmed through DNA identification that the skeletal remains discovered on the Aroostook River in Presque Isle on May 18 are those of Tela Hart,” said Det. Sgt. Wayne Selfridge, who’s been in charge of the missing woman’s case since Hart disappeared on Oct. 9, 2005.
Hart was reported missing on Oct. 9, hours after leaving a friend’s residence on Lenfest Street. She reportedly walked in the direction of the Presque Isle Stream, where it’s believed she somehow slipped into the water and drowned. It had rained that night and the grass along the river was wet. Officer Kevin Schumacher and K-9 Hunter responded to do a track. Hunter led the officer to the water several times, leading investigators to believe Hart slipped into the water.
Months of searching turned up nothing until two fiddleheaders stumbled upon the remains last week. The Medical Examiner’s Office was contacted and the remains were moved to Augusta where identification was made.
Hart’s family spent Memorial Day afternoon at the site Hart’s body was found.
“We held a memorial service at the site where my aunt’s body was found,” said Shannon Cole, Hart’s niece.
Family members taking part in the service included: Cole, Iris Brown, Jean Brown, Gail McNerney and Amanda Bradstreet. Selfridge joined the family for the service.
“Wayne’s become a part of our family. We’ll forever be grateful to him for the time and effort he put into finding my aunt,” said Cole. “It was important for us to include him in this gathering. He’s been so supportive and understanding since the beginning.”
While the family has positive identification that the remains are those of Hart, it will be several more weeks before real closure can take place in the form of a funeral. The next step is for the Medical Examiner’s Office to try to determine the cause of death.
“As part of standard procedure, a forensic anthropologist working with the medical examiner will inspect the remains to determine if cause and manner of death can be determined if possible,” said Selfridge.
“We’ve been told it will probably be late July or August before they release her body. Once we have her back, we’re planning on having her cremated and will have a service for her at that time,” said Cole.
Cole said she and her family are very appreciative for all the help received from officials and volunteers alike.
“We received a great deal of support from officials from various agencies as well as volunteers. They braved all kinds of weather conditions to try to find my aunt. We just want everyone to know how much we appreciate everything that was done to try to find her. It meant a lot to us and we’re grateful,” said Cole.