Authorities have identified the recent homicide victim whose body was found Sunday by a group of Amish children as they were riding their horses through a wooded area southeast of the town of Reading.
“The Michigan State Police Crime lab personnel identified the victim as a Jeremy Alan Barron, age 37, of 3351 Steamburg Road in Hillsdale, Michigan,” police said in a Wednesday evening press release. “Detectives transported the fingerprints to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab Wednesday where the positive identification of the victim was determined.”
Barron has had previous run-ins with Hillsdale law enforcement. According to the Hillsdale Daily News, in February, Barron was scheduled for a preliminary examination hearing on charges of third degree criminal sexual conduct. In 2015, he was arrested for driving with an open container and a suspended license.
On Sunday, police said they responded to a call at 3:52 p.m. after a group of Amish boys stumbled upon the body of a deceased male near the intersection of Dimmers Road and Gilmore Road. An autopsy performed by the Lucas County Coroner’s office in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday identified the man to be in his mid-to-late 30s. The cause of death was identified as gunshot wounds.
“We’ve had several homicides through the years,” Parker said. “There have been some that have been a lot more heinous.”
The area where the body was located, about 15 miles southwest of campus, is populated by numerous Amish communities and farms.
Joseph Graber, a 12-year-old boy who lives less than a mile away from the crime scene, was one of the four Amish children who discovered the body on Sunday as they were riding through the countryside. Graber said when he saw the body, he didn’t think it was real.
“We thought it was a clown or a fake or something,” Graber said. “Once we saw it we got really scared and rode home and told the neighbors to make a call.”
Graber and some of his family members riding with him went back to get help. His friend, 15-year-old Lavern Eicher, separated from the group and rode back to his home to tell his family.
“As we were starting through the woods, I saw a pair of pants and some shoes. I thought it was a rag or something, and I joked ‘I guess that’s all that must have been left of him,’” Eicher said in an interview with The Collegian. “But when I got closer, maybe 10 feet away, I was surprised to see it was a man.”
Eicher said that the man was lying face-up, sprawled out. While he said he couldn’t remember much about the man’s physical characteristics, he thought he had black hair.
When Eicher later found out that Barron was dead, he said was scared and concerned.
“I felt shaky, I didn’t know what the deal was,” Eicher said.
Anna Marie Eicher, Lavern’s mother, said she found the murder very troubling.
“He was pretty scared,” she said. “Things like this don’t happen here, I’ve never witnessed something like this.”
Residents who live outside of the Amish community also said they were disturbed by the news. Connie Johnson, who can see the wooded crime scene from her front porch, said she couldn’t sleep after hearing about the homicide.
“I’ve lived here for 54 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Johnson said. “I really didn’t think that something like that happens here. I never would’ve dreamt of it.”
Parker said they are pursuing leads on a possible suspect, and that they’ve been receiving numerous phone calls to assist with the case.
“It’s been a period of time since we’ve had a homicide,” Parker said. “But the sad part is that Hillsdale County is not immune to violence.”
Police said they encourage anyone with additional information to call the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office at (517) 437-7317.