Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bear Footin'

Warning: This punny tale of grizzly crime may not be suitable for the humor impaired...

Summer had just breathed its dying breath in the year of ’08 (that’s 2008) as we begin our tale of lurid crime…or should that be tail? It was almost midnight on Saturday, September 20th, when a young man called his dog in for the night. In the dog’s mouth appeared to be a small foot…a small human foot.

The young man called his father who called police to their Hester Heights home just west of Highway 43 in Russellville. Police Chief Chris Hargett is known to take his job seriously, and not even a pressing meeting at the Russellville Housing Authority could have kept him from personally investigating this strange canine find.

Hargett pronounced it a small, bare foot, probably belonging to a young child. He immediately took the foot to the Russellville Hospital Emergency Department where the physician on duty similarly pronounced the dog’s booty to be a recently severed human foot.

The foot was then routed to a Russellville orthopedic surgeon who concurred that the remains were human and belonged to a small child. Chris Hargett had his work cut out for him; no children had been reported missing in the area, and the medical personnel who inspected the foot averred that it was highly unlikely any child could have survived such an amputation without immediate medical intervention.

On Monday, cadaver dogs were brought in from HEMSI in Huntsville and the North Alabama Search Dog Association in Madison. They combed the entire area around Circle Drive and Wilson Boulevard, but despite their best efforts, no other remains were found. Was the Hester Heights foot destined for an unmarked shoe box? In the interim, the foot was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in hopes of determining race and gender. Hargett proclaimed, “We pretty much have to think the worst.”

Sadly, many suspected the foot somehow belonged to Jennifer Hampton, a small, young Florence woman who had gone missing from a Knoxville, Tennessee, motel room. Had she been taken captive and brought back to Alabama for some diabolical reason?

Meanwhile, the forensics lab had failed to answer the question of the foot’s humanity, and Hargett had the grisly find sent to UAB in hopes of any definitive information. Just as Russellville’s answer to Inspector Clouseau was about to call a news conference to proclaim there was no news on the case, the news in fact arrived. The foot belonged to a bear cub.

No official word was ever offered as to where the severed foot was interred…or as to what ridicule a certain Russellville orthopedic surgeon most certainly had to endure.