Cops and Courts

Mon deputies identify body found in Cheat Lake area; additional information released on two-year-old “John Doe” case

A 62-year-old Point Marion man was found deceased just a few feet from his vehicle after area law enforcement found the car in the area of Birch Hollow Road and Darnell Hollow Road in Cheat Lake Thursday evening. 

According to information from the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were patrolling the area when they came upon a red, 2004 Chrysler Sebring parked in a heavily wooded area along a logging trail. Deputies approached the vehicle and observed a white male who was deceased approximately 10 feet from the vehicle.  

The male was identified as 62-year-old James Lanko of Point Marion, Pa.  

The sheriff’s department claims there were no signs of suspicious circumstances noted on the scene, however, the investigation is ongoing pending the results of an autopsy.  

No additional information on what may have caused Lanko’s death, or how long he may have been there, was released by the department.  

The Dominion Post reported yesterday that investigators with MCSD and the FBI were searching a scene in the area of Dug Hill Road near Sabraton on Thursday where the human remains of an unknown individual were found almost two years ago on June 10, 2021. Palmer said the remains were currently considered belonging to a “John Doe.” 

Sheriff Perry Palmer released additional information into that investigation on Friday, saying that detectives are continuing the investigation after new information was obtained from a forensic anthropological report from the University of Tennessee.  

In the anthropological report, which investigators recently received in March of 2023, it indicated that the remains likely belong to a 14 to 23-year-old white male between 5’6”- 6’ tall, but an identity was not able to be determined. 

According to the department, the new information has been sent to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which is a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases throughout the United States.  

If anyone has any information on either the death of Lanko or information on the “John Doe” male, please contact the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at 304-291-7260.