GREAT VALLEY, N.Y. (WIVB) - Police say there is a high probability the human remains found in Allegany State Park are that of missing pastor Thomas Hamilton.
On November 10, 2010, the 92-year-old reverend was hiking in the park with his 66-year-old daughter Rebecca Hoffman when they became lost. After spending the night together in the park, his daughter left him to find Parks Police.
The initial search took eight days, and while Parks Police never closed the books on the case, Hamilton was presumed dead. His daughter was interviewed regarding the disappearance, but no charges were ever filed.
The remains were found in the area where Hamilton went missing, about two miles away from a trail entrance and about 500 feet off the trail. Police say from what they found, they do not suspect any foul play, but until forensic tests are completed, they can't be 100 percent sure.
Major Scott Richie says he is confident they are Hamilton's remains, saying, "We have clothing descriptions, jewelry, and a walking stick he had."
An alert hiker made the discovery of bone fragments and a human skull. Police say because there was so much debris scattered about and so much time has passed, it's likely the body was buried underneath the forest floor for some time.
Back in 2010, searchers scoured 20 percent of the park during the original search. But State Police Capt. Steve Nigrelli says the remains were found outside of that search area.
"We had a general area where the remains were uncovered, we really honed down to about a 200 to 250 yard area and it's really inch-by-inch," said Nigrelli.
He added, "It's tough for the family to go through this, as you might imagine. It's been their fear for the last year and a half. And it sounds like high probability we found his remains."
Again - until tests are completed, the remains can not be confirmed as Thomas Hamilton's. The remains are being brought to Buffalo for an autopsy and we should learn more in the coming days.
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