Police investigating after possible human remains found in sewer line

Posted at 5:53 AM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 22:10:43-04

After almost 18 hours, police and city crews finally reopened a neighborhood street shut down as authorities investigated the discovery of human remains.

Since 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, crews have been in the area near 55th Avenue and Dobbins Road after a call that sparked a homicide investigation.

Phoenix police Officer James Holmes said the city water department got a call from a resident in the area saying the sewage lines were backed up.

The Water Department sent crews to investigate, and in an 8-inch pipe underground on Gwen Street, city crews made a disturbing discovery -- human remains.

"We have a lot of concerns. This is someone's loved one and there is possibly evidence in there with that body," said Holmes.

Video from the area showed several crime scene markers, and even one person being lifted from various manholes.

Police called this a very complicated investigation. The Water Department used sophisticated technology like drain pipe cameras to look through the 8-inch pipe for evidence.

Police said they had to be meticulous as this was a homicide investigation, although they did not know where the person was killed or dismembered, and how the remains got into the pipe.

City workers had to flush out the pipes into a truck, and police said someone would have to go through that as well, to see if any other evidence could be found.

"This is a first for us. I talked to the homicide detectives and unfortunately we've pulled bodies out of canals before, but nothing like this," said Holmes.

He also described it as a dangerous job because of the gases underground and the HAZMAT situation involved.

Water Department officials said the sewer lines served the housing development and an adjacent one in the area.  Sewer service was not interrupted, but police said they had to ask a few residents in the area to not use their bathrooms while they were working underground.

A city Water Department spokeswoman said because sewer lines by nature and use were already contaminated, they did not require additional sanitation.

The human remains are now in the custody of the medical examiner's office.

Police know the victim is an adult, but further testing of the remains will have to determine the person's gender, and possibly identity.

If you have any information call 480-WITNESS.