PITTSBURGH (AP) – The remains of a mentally ill central Pennsylvania woman whose parents told police she jumped from their moving car while driving to a psychiatric clinic last year have been found in woods near where she was last seen.
The remains of Susan Bachman, 37, were found Wednesday as troopers went back to where her parents say she ran into the woods July 4, along Interstate 80 near Brookville, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
A state police news release said troopers were preparing for a more detailed search using a cadaver-sniffing dog that had been scheduled for next Monday when they found the remains. Police planned the search after unspecified “new evidence” was found, but they refused further comment Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.
But the dead woman’s brother, William Bachman, 45, of New York City, told The Associated Press the family requested the cadaver dog search after learning someone found his sister’s purse about four weeks ago.
Her clothes had been found in another location, also near where she first ran away, in September, but her family continued to theorize she had adopted a new identity and traveled across the country, Bachman said.
“I think the theory had been that maybe she found a change of clothes and ditched her old clothes,” Bachman said – perhaps stealing new garments from a backyard clothesline or a nearby home in an area.
The woman’s parents, Bill and Nancy Bachman of Julian, Centre County, were so convinced their daughter was still alive they established a website, http://www.findsusanbachman.com , and Facebook page dedicated to drumming up tips and even traveled cross-country on I-80, believing their daughter would have stayed on or near the road. The couple’s hopes were buoyed when someone thought they saw Susan Bachman at an I-80 truck stop in Gary, Indiana, a week after she disappeared, her brother said.
“I think we still held out the strong hope that she might be out there surviving somewhere and having adopted a new identity,” he said. “It becomes psychologically very challenging because you don’t know whether to grieve or not because you’re left in this holding pattern.”
Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic anthropologist from Mercyhurst University, will examine the remains in hopes of determining how Susan Bachman died, Jefferson County Coroner Bernard Snyder said.
Her remains were quickly identified using dental records, the coroner said, after they were found in a “thick wooded area.”
Police wouldn’t comment on whether they suspect foul play or simply that the woman died from injuries she may have suffered from jumping out of the car.
The Bachmans have said Susan, who had degrees in nursing and life sciences from Penn State, nonetheless had unspecified “emotional problems” and was headed for a mental evaluation at the Clarion Psychiatric Center when she jumped from the front passenger seat and ran away. They’ve asked for memorial contributions to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“While we’re deeply saddened and grieving about my sister’s passing, it was really rough going for an extended time not knowing the truth,” William Bachman said.
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