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Remains found in Arizona coal plows identified as missing Fort Bliss soldier

21-year-old Devon Lee Ward of California was a private in the military, stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, when he was last seen on or around May 25, 2016 checking into his barracks at 3 a.m.

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By CAITLIN SCHMIDT | The Arizona Daily Star (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 15, 2016

Nearly six months after their discovery, authorities have identified human remains discovered in a coal chute at the Apache Generating Station near Cochise, Ariz.

21-year-old Devon Lee Ward of California was a private in the military, stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, before being listed as absent without leave in June, said Carol Capas, a Cochise County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman. He was last seen on or around May 25, 2016 when he checked into his barracks at 3 a.m. Ward was reported to have Asperger’s Syndrome and was apparently battling mild depression around the time he went missing.

On June 27, the Sheriff’s Office was notified about remains found in one of three coal rotary plows — large machinery that moves coal — that are part of the station’s delivery system.

Deputies found bones and body parts in the coal, and the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition, Capas said.

It’s unknown how long the body was in the chute, but authorities believe it may have been in a coal train prior to the coal being unloaded into the coal chute at the plant.

The body was sent to the Pima County Medical Examiner for autopsy, and they were able to positively identify the remains as Ward's through a fingerprint match, Capas said.

Next of kin has been contacted and the sheriff's department is continuing its investigation.

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©2016 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)
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