CELINA — Mercer County authorities have identified the human remains found near Coldwater Creek on Jan. 3, 2016.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey held a news conference Tuesday to announce the bones belonged to Ryan R. Zimmerman, 22, of Columbus and formerly of Corbin, Kentucky. Zimmerman had been missing since Sept. 27, 2015.
It’s believed Zimmerman was killed elsewhere, and parts of his body were dumped near Coldwater Creek just off U.S. 127 on the western side of Grand Lake St. Marys. Only his torso, minus his head, was found there. A woman walking her dog discovered the remains.
“We don’t have a complete skeleton, but it was very clear that the body was dismembered,” Grey said. “We can show that the head was actually cut off at the spinal column. We have the saw marks that indicate that. We never did find the skull, and, at least at this point, we believe that that was discarded in some other location.”
Authorities don’t know if he spent any time in Mercer County but are hopeful someone may have known him and can shed light on who might be responsible for his death.
Grey indicated they do have some “suspects of interest” in mind in connection with the homicide but wouldn’t release any information on that.
Investigators had tried to use DNA initially to try to come up with leads on the identity of the remains but came up empty. In May of 2017, a company called ISO Forensics created a map that could lead authorities to where the unknown person might have been from using bone oxygen isotopes to predict where he might have lived.
One area, denoted by a single red dot, showed the body might have been from the Corbin, Kentucky, area.
“That (red dot) was so small that we even contacted the company to see if possibly that was just a printer error on there, and they said nope, that that actually hit for those isotopes,” Grey said.
The break in the case came in January of this year when a BCI analyst became intrigued about the similarity in age and height of the victim and a similar missing person’s case filed with the Columbus Police Department.
“So she reached out to Columbus PD and reached out to our detectives and said, ‘Hey, we might want to look at this one,’” Grey said.
That missing person’s report was filed Nov. 17, 2015, after the father of Ryan Zimmerman was notified his car was impounded by Columbus police. The car that Ryan drove was in the name of his father. His parents hadn’t heard from him since Sept. 27, 2015.
Columbus police were able to get DNA samples from both of Zimmerman’s parents and, through that, were able to positively identify the remains as those of Ryan Zimmerman.
“From what we were able to gather, Ryan moved to Columbus, Ohio, in August of 2015. He moved there because he met some people on the internet that he developed a friendship with over the internet, and as I understand that he liked to play internet games and that kind of stuff,” Grey said.
Grey is asking for the public’s help in solving this case.
“I need the media’s help to get this information out, but I also need the public’s help on social media. If everybody shares those, it’ll get out beyond our community and out beyond your areas that your news covers, and it may help us get some information,” Grey said. “Ryan had his whole life ahead. There was no reason that his life was cut short. He’s got two brothers and a sister and a mother and father. We owe them an explanation.”
“We believe the case is solvable if we can get the public and media’s help. We want to bring closure to the parents, and we want to bring justice for Ryan’s killer,” Grey said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.