A 59-year-old man was arrested in Scottsdale after a number of human remains were found in northern Arizona over the weekend, police say.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office arrested Walter Mitchell of Washington state on Tuesday, December 29, in connection to the human remains case of nearly 25 limbs discovered between December 26 and December 27 near Prescott , according to the sheriff’s office. Police also found five human heads at a different location, YCSO said on Facebook.
Physical evidence from the sites suggest that both cases are connected to a former Seattle-based business owned by Mitchell, which handled cadavers and recently closed, YCSO said.
YCSO wrote in a December 29 Facebook post:
Using evidence recovered from the scene, detectives discovered the remains were likely connected to a business based in Seattle, Washington, identified as ‘Future GenX.’ Mitchell owned the business which involved the management of cadavers for research and had recently closed. Working with local police in the Seattle area, detectives obtained information that Mitchell left Seattle in 2020 with human remains belonging to 5 individuals.
Arizona state law says, “It is unlawful for a person to knowingly move a dead human body or parts of a human body with the intent to abandon or conceal the dead human body or parts,” YSCO wrote.
Mitchell now faces 28 counts of moving human remains with the intent to conceal or abandon them, YCSO announced. A bond has not yet been set for the suspect, the sheriff’s office said.
“The disrespect shown to the deceased in this case by those who were charged with caring for their remains is abhorrent and intolerable,” YCSO Sheriff-elect David Rhodes said on Facebook. “Today’s arrest is a big step in getting accountability and honor for those whose remains were so cavalierly treated.”
Mitchell’s motive remains unknown, police said, and the investigation is ongoing.
Here’s what you need to know:
Arizona Police Say They Prioritized the Case Because They Were Worried They Were Dealing With a ‘Serial Killer’
Seattle police worked closely with Arizona authorities to narrow down Mitchell as a suspect, KTAR News reported.
YCSO Sheriff Scott Mascher said in the December 29 Facebook statement that police prioritized the case because they were worried it involved a potential “serial killer.”
“At the onset, it was important to determine that this case did not involve a serial killer,” he shared.
The sheriff also expressed gratitude to the “community for their patience” during the investigation.
“I want to thank the community for their patience as we investigated this case and am very proud of our detectives, staff and volunteers for the work they did to identify and arrest the suspect so quickly,” Mascher continued.
According to YCSO, detectives during the investigation “sought out” Arizona facilities that work with cadavers for medical research. The sheriff’s office emphasized that the case involving Mitchell does not represent other facilities operating in this line of work.
“They want the public to know that this case in no way represents the work they do to care for loved ones who have donated their bodies to important education and research,” YCSO wrote on Facebook of the other organizations.
Mitchell Recently Closed His Company & Drove From Seattle With 5 Bodies, Police Say
The case stems from the December 26 discovery of 19 human limbs in a remote forest located northwest of Prescott, YCSO said, after a citizen had reported finding two human limbs near Contreras Road. Investigators then found five more limbs in the same spot the following day, the sheriff’s office continued.
On December 27, YCSO recovered five human heads after a hunter reported finding two.
“YCSO received a phone call from a hunter in the Camp Wood area who reported finding 2 severed human heads,” the sheriff’s office said in the December 29 Facebook statement. “Deputies arrived and confirmed what he had seen, and a follow-up search revealed 3 more human heads.”
According to YCSO, Mitchell left from Seattle with the remains of five individuals and drove through the Prescott area to Scottsdale.
On Facebook, Mascher apologized to the families affected by Mitchell’s actions, writing, “This situation is unimaginable, and I am so sorry for the families whose loved ones were donated to research and treated in such a horrific fashion.”
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