Skeletal remains that were discovered Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Eufaula have been identified of a missing Eufaula woman, Dawn O’Brien.
Dawn Maria O’Brien was 40-years-old when she was reported missing by family members on Aug. 17, according to a missing person’s report filed with the Eufaula Police Department. The last known contact with O’Brien was on July 29.
The body was located on West Union Street, close to downtown Eufaula, about a block from two busy residential roads. A woman looking for her missing dog was reported as having found the remains.
The identity of the body was first released by Barbour County Coroner Sydney “Chip” Chapman on Nov. 22 as funeral plans were announced for O’Brien, prior to a press release by the EPD. A lack of communication was blamed for the EPD not releasing the identity of the body before funeral plans were announced.
When asked about how the body was released to the family so soon after being discovered without a state forensic autopsy, EPD Chief Steve Watkins said, “The identification is left up to Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. They take our input, the coroner’s input and the family’s input; if the family is satisfied that the body is theirs, and if all the evidence corroborates that, then the medical examiner (Coroner) can say yes, this is that individual. If the family is not satisfied with that, then the family can request DNA testing.”
In August when O’Brien was reported missing by her family, an initial investigation was conducted by the EPD. Foul play was not ruled out at that time due to the lack evidence but with the discovery of the remains, Watkins and Sgt. Donald Brown said that due to how the body was found — its position — that foul play in her death has now been ruled out. When asked how that decision was made, Brown said, “We can initially make that assumption, determination, just from our view of the body itself, not seeing anything specific that shows any kind of trauma. At that moment, all we can say initially is that we don’t see anything to indicate foul play.”
“We discussed it with the family and the family is satisfied that there was not any foul play,” Watkins added.
With no evidence being found at the scene where the body was found, Brown said the police department’s hands are tied on pursuing anything else with the body. “Technically it’s in their hands,” he said. “We didn’t see anything to indicate foul play.
Brown reported that the family has shared information with the department concerning Dawn that cannot be released. “The bottom line is that the family is fully aware of everything,” he said.
When asked about the area where O’Brien was found and a search for her that took place not long after her being reported missing, Brown said, “You have to remember it was summer time. The brush was a lot thicker than it is right now.”