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Ohio family thinks grave may hold remains of missing man

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Feb 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-23 15:29:04-05

MASSILLON, Ohio — An Ohio family thinks an unmarked grave may hold the answer to the mystery of a relative’s disappearance 50 years ago.

Russell Brunner was 31 when he disappeared from his home at the former Massillon State Hospital in 1970 where he’d been committed as a teen because of a diagnosis of schizophrenia, his sister, Rita Tod, told The Repository.

Though the hospital allegedly told his family that Brunner had been discharged, a body was found in 1972 in a barn on the grounds where Brunner worked, the paper said.Though the coroner at the time apparently suspected the body was Brunner’s, the coroner didn’t identify him as Brunner and the body was declared an “unknown male” before it was buried in the city cemetery in Massillon in northeastern Ohio, according to The Repository.

Brunner was known to have worked in the same barn, the remains fit his description, and state hospital-issued items were found on the body, the paper said.

An investigation into existing records by The Repository along with its interviews with Brunner’s surviving siblings indicates the body is most likely Brunner and that he died by killing himself.The current county coroner agreed with the paper’s findings.

“I think from the circumstantial evidence surrounding this case that it is most likely Russell Brunner,” said Coroner Anthony Bertin.

Because there was no evidence of foul play, the family would need a court order to exhume the remains and would have to pay that cost and any testing, the coroner said.