Skeletal remains found south of Clover Island (w/ gallery)

KENNEWICK — Cowboy boots spotted along the water's edge south of Clover Island were the first thing a surveyor noticed Monday before finding the skeletal remains.

Matt Rainey then saw what appeared to be leg bones, a coat and a skull halfway buried in the mud.

"There wasn't any doubt it was human," said Rainey, with Rogers Surveying Inc. of Richland.

Rainey and Michael Harrington had spent the day walking along the water's edge of Duffy's Pond under a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to survey the area.

After spotting the remains about 1:15 p.m. Monday, they called 911 and Kennewick police quickly responded to secure the area.

Detective Sgt. Randy Maynard said it was too early to tell how the body came to be in the pond, but they're conducting a death investigation and treating it as a crime scene until they know otherwise.

Investigators didn't get close to the remains that are about 25 feet down an embankment because they didn't have the necessary safety gear or equipment.

An officer was stationed along the path south of the pond overnight and detectives were expected to be back out at 7 a.m. today to begin processing the scene.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team also may be called in to see if they can help collect evidence, Maynard said.

Benton County Coroner John Hansens arrived about 3 p.m. to get a briefing from detectives. He said it's important to process the site as if it were a "horrific crime scene," because they only have one chance to properly gather evidence.

An autopsy and forensic tests will be used to try to determine if the death was accidental or a homicide.

Rainey said when he first saw the boots, he didn't think anything of it because he had seen lots of shoes in the water Monday, but when he got a closer look, he knew it was more than boots.

The first thought in his mind when he realized he had found skeletal remains was "not again," Rainey said.

This is the second time in two years that he has found a body while surveying. The first time was in southern Idaho when he stumbled upon a transient in a culvert who had apparently froze to death in his sleep, Rainey said.

"This one's not so obvious," he said.

The pond is part of an area between Clover Island and the cable bridge that the Port of Kennewick and city have been working on sprucing up and redeveloping for waterfront development.

The port has bought up businesses and even closed an old mobile home park near the pond where the body was found.

* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com