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The cave where Ronnie Lee Goree’s remains were found in April 2005.
Photo Courtesy Morgan County Sheriff’s Department
The cave where Ronnie Lee Goree’s remains were found in April 2005.

Deputies pursue leads in mystery cave death
Remains confirmed as Somerville man

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

SOMERVILLE — DNA testing confirmed suspicions that remains found in a cave in April 2005 belong to a mentally challenged man who disappeared years ago, authorities said Wednesday.

Ronnie Lee Goree, who would have been 32 when his mother reported him missing in April 2004, had lived in a mobile home on Cain Road about 400 yards from the cave in north-central Morgan County where investigators unearthed his bones.

At the time of the dig, Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett said Goree could have been missing for as many as four or five years — meaning he might have disappeared years before his mother filed the report.

Bartlett said Wednesday that a homicide investigation remains under way to determine the circumstances surrounding Goree’s death.

“Obviously, the remains didn’t get there by themselves, so somebody is involved in putting his body in that cave,” Bartlett said.

“We’ve got different avenues that we’re looking at, and we hope to put this to rest as soon as possible.”

Investigator Kyle Wilson, on the case for more than three years, said investigators are eyeing several persons of interest.

Also, he said, investigators are working closely with the U.S. Secret Service and Social Security Administration.

Wilson said he couldn’t go into detail concerning the involvement of those agencies, but he did acknowledge that Goree had been a Social Security recipient.

Goree, who suffered from acute seizures and a mental defect, couldn’t care for himself and apparently depended on family members who lived in a cluster of mobile homes near his, Wilson said.

Eva Goree, 49, said Wednesday she feels confident investigators will solve the mystery of her son’s death.

“I hope they get what’s coming to them,” Goree said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Anybody would who cared about their kid. I loved my kid. Whoever did it, I want them brought down hard. I’ve been hurt for a long time about this.”

She said Ronnie Goree was her only son.

“He was a good person that would do anything for anybody,” she said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He was my pride.”

Wilson said initial leads that Goree might be in Tennessee, Georgia or the Flint area had dead-ended when a surprising tip turned the missing person investigation into a homicide investigation.

“I received a phone call from somebody that sort of got all this started. ... It was almost a year between the time he was reported missing and the time we got any information that was credible,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the tip led investigators to the area near Goree’s 1853 Cain Road home.

“We went out there one day with some cadaver dogs and got some hits, but it was the next day before we actually found it. ... It was a cave with two caverns. We recovered some bones out of the smaller cavern of the cave,” Wilson said.

Wilson estimated the underground chamber was about 51/2 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

At the FBI laboratory at Quantico, Va., the remains underwent tests including DNA extraction and comparison to Eva Goree’s DNA that confirmed suspicions they belonged to Ronnie Goree, Wilson said.

Bartlett said another surprise phone call might make a difference.

“We’re still looking for leads from the public,” he said. “If there’s still someone out there with some information, we ask them to call the sheriff’s office. You don’t even have to use your name. You can just give us the information over the phone.

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