The investigation was given new life when bones were discovered in a low-lying area adjacent a thinly marked trail used by hunters and passing fishermen en route to the Missouri River.
t was in a wooded clearing near Cement City Road in Sugar Creek strewn with broken bottles and stripped of undergrowth – save a few weeds that sprouted after floodwaters receded this past spring – that a shallow grave containing the bones of two children was discovered Sunday morning.
Independence Police spokeperson Tom Gentry confirmed the identity of the bones as those of Sam and Lindsey Porter, ages 7 and 8 when they went missing in June 2004 following a weekend visitation with their father, Dan Porter.
an Porter told investigators many different stories about what happened to the children, including that he had cut them up and that he had strangled them.
In February 2006, Porter was found guilty on charges of parental kidnapping with the intent to terrorize his ex-wife, Tina, and he was sentenced to 38 years in prison.
“It’s somewhat of a closure, a resolution,” Gentry said. “In another sense, it hits us all…right in the heart.”
entry said the medical examiner determined the identity of the bones on Monday evening from dental records. He would not comment on the possible causes of death or if any charges would be made by prosecutors.
The discovery was made as part of a three-year search of a 10-mile stretch of land along the Missouri River. Gentry said the area was well-known to Dan Porter, who frequently hunted on the property.
According to Sugar Creek Police Chief Herb Soule, who worked in cooperation with the Independence police on the case, it was also well-known as a burial site.
“It’s dense woods next to a heavily populated area,” Soule said. “So, it’s a prime spot for body disposal; there have been other bodies found there over the years.”
Soule said he personally searched portions of the 10-mile tract more than a dozen times during the three-year span of the investigation, which is ongoing.
“We’ve had blood hounds, expert trackers, you name it down there,” Soule said. “But since it’s such a dense area, there’s no way you could find anything.”
While Gregg Wilkinson, supervisor of the Independence Police Investigations Unit, would not comment on how authorities were led to the site containing the remains of Sam and Lindsey Porter, he did say they were specifically targeting the densely wooded area northwest of Cement City Road, property owned by Lafarge North America. Aside from being a place where Dan Porter often illegally hunted, it is close to the Porters’ home and a place where Tina Porter, the children’s mother, agreed to meet Dan Porter the day he took the children.
an Porter asked Tina Porter to meet him shortly before noon the day the children disappeared at Cement City Road so they could exchange vehicles. He said he needed her pickup because he had purchased furniture at an estate sale in Liberty and had no means of getting it home.
When Tina Porter asked why Sam and Lindsey were not with him, he insisted that he’d left them behind at the estate sale. Tina Porter told him she wanted to accompany him back to Liberty.
As they drove along Cement City Road, Dan Porter tried to convince Tina Porter to drive her pickup into the woods, telling her that he had hidden $50,000 in the woods and wanted to find it. She refused.
ccording to Wilkinson, the investigation was given new life when bones were discovered in a low-lying area adjacent a thinly marked trail used by hunters and passing fishermen en route to the Missouri River. The grave site lies about 75 yards from the road.
Wilkinson said the exact area in which the remains were found had been searched many times with no success.
He also said the bowl-shaped clearing is highly susceptible to flooding. In late April, a flurry of torrential rainstorms forced the river to tip its banks, dumping about 4 feet of river water onto the grave site.
“But all it really takes is one heavy rain and this area is flooded,” Wilkinson said.
Because flooding is commonplace, Wilkinson said it’s an area vulnerable to erosion.
“With every flood, more and more sediment is swept away,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said experts from various agencies were brought in to work the case once the grave site was determined, including FBI agents and anthropologists.
“We treated it like it was an archaeological dig,” Wilkinson said. “And when we finished (Monday), we returned everything to how we found it out of respect for the children.”
Gentry said Tina Porter was taken to the grave site late Monday afternoon.
“I understand Tina was pretty emotional when she visited,” Gentry said. “Her reaction was one of sorrow, anger and denial.”
he site where Sam and Lindsey Porter’s remains were unearthed is a solemn place. There’s no breeze and sound is muted. Occasionally, there’s the snap of a fallen twig or the rustle of a robin hopping through a decayed bed of leaves.
Otherwise, the only noise comes every 15 minutes with the roar of a train.