KENNETT, MO (KAIT) – Police in Dunklin County need public assistance in tracking the killer of George Conder, whose body was discovered in the St. Francis River west of Highway B by two farmers.
According to Dunklin County Sheriff Bob Holder, the murder case is one of the oldest on the books in southeast Missouri.
"November of 1996, about November 26th, we had a report that George Conder was missing," said Holder.
In an interview with Region 8 News, Holder said Conder was a "good man" and "very likeable person." Conder was reported missing after cashing his paycheck at the Windmill Package Store in Kennett.
"His nephew happened to pass by, saw a shining object reflecting in his rear view mirror. He backed up and he found out that it was George's truck. He observed a truck there," said Holder. "In talking with family and friends, there was a white tool box that had been up in the cab. That was missing and also the CB radio was missing."
Police immediately thought foul play was involved after discovering Conder's keys in the truck. Three months later, human remains were found scattered in the St. Francis River. Some remains were found in a black plastic material, tied with nylon rope.
"There was a gunshot wound to the head," said Holder. "We definitely know it's a homicide."
Holder said Conder was involved in drug activity, specifically marijuana.
"We do know that during this period of time, there was marijuana. Some marijuana, possibly a marijuana grow, a marijuana grow house was involved that George was familiar with and had been working with," said Holder.
According to Dunklin County Prosecutor Steve Sokoloff, Conder was wanted on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance. Sokoloff believes at least one suspect is still living in the Dunklin County area. Holder says two people are strongly believed to have been involved in the Conder case.
"We've got a large puzzle. We've got a lot of the puzzle put together, but we've still got a number of pieces that are missing," said Holder. "Probably in our folder there is over maybe 40 to 45 individuals that may have been contacted in this period of time."
Holder said officers found Conder's wallet and clothing in a separate plastic bag. The remains were taken to Farmington, Missouri for an autopsy and St. Louis for examination from a forensic anthropologist.
"The people that shot him, I think, are probably pretty cold blooded," said Holder. "You're always saddened when that happens, but these things happen. It's something you have to cope with on a daily basis."
If you have any information that could help police in this case, contact the Dunklin County Sheriff's Office at 573-888-2424.
Farmers discover body
Jeremy and Major Moore live in Holcomb, Missouri. On a cold day, February 23, 1997, the two found the skeleton remains of Conder. Major told Region 8 News his dog was playing with a bone near his property. At first, he thought the bone belonged to a deer.
"When we lived out here, everybody had an outside dog and it was just the usual thing," said Major. "We heard of him going missing and then we didn't hear much in between. We had suspicions that that could possibly be George."
"This bone didn't look like it belonged to a deer. So we thought we'd go on up (to the river) and see if we could find out where they were hanging out. We thought maybe somebody had posted a deer or maybe just left the remains up there and they (dogs) found them," said Jeremy. "It was on the way back and I noticed a couple of our dogs. I got out and walked down to where they were at (side of the river) to see what they had, and I noticed a skull. I'm still thinking it's the remains of a deer or some other animal. We turned it over then, and we noticed it was human. So we looked a little more and we found the torso. That's when we went home and we called the police."
Jeremy was 18-years old at the time. He said the images of that day are hard to shake from his memory.
Now, he and his father just want to know what happened near their own land.
"(If not for the dogs) It probably would have never been found because the bones were really getting scattered fast between the animals. And then when the high water came, that would have been the end of it," said Major.
Region 8 News attempted to talk to the brother of George Conder regarding the case, but he declined an on camera interview. He said the memories of his brother were too painful to discuss publicly.