FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia State Police said Friday that the discovery of human remains and personal possessions found near the New River Gorge Bridge could solve an 18-year-old mystery: the disappearance of a Virginia Tech graduate student.
The remains were found in a heavily wooded area Thursday along with Robert L. Kovack’s driver’s license, a college ID and car keys, State Police Sgt. Kenneth Tawes told The Roanoke Times (http://bit.ly/1P4j0Dn).
The 24-year-old from Rivesville, West Virginia, disappeared Sept. 18, 1998, while he was on his way to a West Virginia University-Maryland football game in Morgantown.
His vehicle was found out of gas five days later. It was parked and locked near the New River Gorge Bridge.
Tawes says an initial investigation indicates the remains belong to Kovack, and they’ll be taken to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., for further identification, Tawes said.
The discovery came after multiple searches launched by police and the Kovack family.
Kovack was an architectural student who had lined up a job in Fairmont. He called his mom Jackie every Sunday and regularly made the four-hour drive home, according to news reports in 2012.
A surveillance camera video in Blacksburg, Virginia, showed him withdrawing $80 the day he left for West Virginia.
The Kovack family had nearly 100 volunteers search twice; no body was found.
Tawes told The Roanoke Times that the family has been notified of the discovery of the remains, and they’re doing “as good as you can expect.”
“At least they know now,” he added.
The remains were found below the edge of the New River Gorge Bridge, Tawes said.
More than four dozen bodies have been recovered below the bridge since Kovack’s disappearance 18 years ago, Tawes said. The most recent was a suicide at the same spot six months ago, he said.
The remains believed to be Kovack’s were found during construction on the bridge as crews cleared trees and brush from below the structure, Tawes said.
After Kovack’s car was found, police searched the area for days using dogs and helicopters. They found nothing.
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