Shawnee, Osage Co. Prosecutors Announce Charges In Cold Case

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Authorities say they have solved the mystery of human remains found near Carbondale in March 2012.

Shawnee Co. District Attorney Chad Taylor and Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones held a joint news conference Thursday afternoon to announce charges in the case.

They say 29-year-old James P. Harris is charged with premeditated, first degree murder for the death of 50-year-old James E. Gerety. Harris is currently in a Texarkana, Texas prison on firearms charges. If Harris is convicted, he could be in prison for life.

"Due to some good cooperative police work, we've been in a position that this case is now able to finally be filed," Taylor said.

Taylor and Jones said a body part that was found north of Carbondale in Osage County in March 2012 is Gerety's. Taylor said DNA results confirmed it three months ago. Harris was then linked to the whole thing.

"There was evidence that was obtained during the course of the investigation that showed alleged involvement of the defendant in teh alleged crime."

Shawnee County authorities had been conducting an investigation into Gerety's whereabouts, but the trail ran cold.

An online missing persons directory shows Gerety was last seen alive March 3, 2011. The site says Gerety was reported missing by the law firm that was his conservator.

Taylor said the murder happened in the window of time between March 3 to April 20 of 2011. He wouldn't say where exactly the murder occurred, but said the presumption is that it took place around where the body part was found.

A woman hunting mushrooms made the discovery the night of March 24, 2012. Decomposing remains, including a skull, were part of the scene. Osage Co. Sheriff Laurie Dunn called in assistance from the Capital Area Major Case Squad.

Taylor would not confirm that the "body part" was the skull.

Shawnee County is assisting Osage County with the prosecution because of a substantial amount of investigative work done by Shawnee County authorities. Their investigation will be used as testimony at Harris' preliminary hearing. The prosecution will be headed up by Jones and Shawnee County attorney Jacqie Spradling.

Authorities spent the next three days combing fields in the area of 118th Court in rural Carbondale in Osage County, including draining two ponds and sifting through a large brush pile.

Harris will be moved to Osage County custody in December to await trial.