No body found in search for student prompted by Facebook tip

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (AP) — A search prompted by a Facebook video suggesting the body of a West Virginia college student last seen in 2002 was buried in Ohio has ended with no bodies found, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said in a statement that the extensive search for the body of Marshall University student Samantha Burns that began Monday morning ended Tuesday afternoon.

Lawless had said the FBI was leading the search of the property near Chesapeake, across the Ohio River from Huntington, West Virginia.

The 19-year-old Burns, of West Hamlin, West Virginia, has been missing since Nov. 11, 2002. She disappeared after telephoning her mother that she was leaving a mall near Huntington, but she never arrived home. Burns’ burned-out car was found the next day on a rural road, just south of Huntington, in that state’s Wayne County.

Two men who escaped from a Kentucky jail, Chad Fulks and Brandon Basham, pleaded guilty in the abduction and slaying of Burns. They also were convicted in the abduction and slaying of 44-year-old Alice Donovan, who was taken from a parking lot in Conway, South Carolina, during the pair’s 17-day multistate crime rampage through Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Donovan’s remains were found in 2009.

Burns’ body was never recovered despite numerous searches around the tristate area, which includes West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

In the Facebook video alleging her body was buried on the Lawrence County property, the man says he met and married a woman several months ago. He says she wouldn’t let him clear an area of her property so he could build a pond. He says she later told him Burns’ body and other bodies were buried on the property where he wanted to dig.

Lawless said the man also contacted his office.

“It’s worth taking a look at,” Lawless had told The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington.

During the search, investigators used shovels, rakes, sifters and heavy equipment to dig on the property. Lawless said the woman who owns the property was “very cooperative.”

The sheriff said a more detailed statement concerning the situation will be released in a couple of days. The Herald-Dispatch reported that Lawson said he couldn’t comment on whether charges would be filed or efforts made to recover costs for the search.

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