BEDFORD CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A Bedford County woman made a shocking discovery the weekend in her own backyard, and now police are trying to get to the bottom of it. The Bedford County Sheriff's Office says a dead body was stashed inside a barrel, and it has charged Robert Wozniak in connection with it.
Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown said at this point Wozniak is not charged with anything stemming from this person's death, only what happened after. But the question is to whom do the remains belong, and why did they end up in a barrel left to rot?
Saturday afternoon police responded to the 911 call in Stewartsville off Route 24 for a homeowner who found something her backyard very out of place.
A barrel that had been in her shed for about two months was moved outside around the back of the house, where it stayed for another month. She said she heard strange noises coming from the barrel and opened it, finding decaying human remains inside.
"When the deputies got there, they could see it was a body in the 55-gallon drum," Sheriff Brown said.
Wozniak lived at that house on Trapper lane since January, renting a room from the owner. The homeowner did not want to speak on camera, and a neighbor declined to comment as well, only saying that she was told the body was the suspect's grandmother.
The Bedford County Sheriff's Ofice charged Wozniak with disposing of a body with malicious intent to avoid detection and four counts of obtaining money by false pretense.
"Whoever it is you just hate to think about somebody ending their life in a 55-gallon drum," Sheriff Brown said.
In a search warrant, deputies said they took banking information for Betty Wozniak, but the department declined to say if they believed that's who the remains belonged to, only saying that Betty is Robert's grandmother.
Sheriff Brown said he believes the remains to be a family member. When asked, Brown said Betty Wozniak is unaccounted for.
According to real estate records and the agent currently listing the home, Betty Wozniak previously lived in a home elsewhere in the Roanoke Valley that was foreclosed upon in 2012. Neighbors of that home who knew the Wozniaks said Robert lived there with his grandmother Betty, and his grandfather before she died.
After the home was foreclosed upon and because of failing health, Betty Wozniak moved in with Dorris Turner, a family friend. Turner said Betty's mail has piled up at her house and that Robert Wozniak was always relying on his grandmother for cash.
"I do know that he just drained her all the time for money," Turner said. "She would say, 'Well I gave (Robert) some money,' and that's all he wanted was money."
Turner said two years ago Betty Wozniak had a series of strokes and moved out. She has not seen or talked to her good friend since and said Robert Wozniak has blocked all contact.
"He says that she can't hear, and she can't talk, so I guess that's why it wouldn't do me any good to contact her," Turner said.
She said Robert Wozniak was supposed to pick up Betty's leftover mail Sunday but never showed. Police arrested him Saturday and Turner did not find that out until Monday morning. Turner said Robert Wozniak is a nurse, and Wozniak has a practical nurse license in the Commonwealth of Virginia according to state records.
The barrel and the body inside it have been taken to the medical examiners office, and the cause of death right now is unknown. When asked, Sheriff Brown said he was unable to comment on whether or not investigators would be able to determine a cause of death with decay accounted for.
Brown said investigators are waiting for those results before they are able to say for sure who the remains belong to. He does not believe anyone else is involved and said there is no public threat.
"Something like (this) it's top priority, and we think we are getting close to bringing it to a close," Brown said.
Bedford County deputies discovered a barrel containing human remains at a home in the Stewartsville area on Saturday.
Dispatchers received a 911 call from a home owner on Trapper Lane who reported the 55-gallon barrel. The barrel had been in her shed for about two months when it was moved outside around the back of the house, where it stayed for another month. She said she heard strange noises coming from the barrel and opened it, finding decaying human remains inside.
She told police that the barrel belonged to 47-year-old Robert Wozniak. Wozniak had been renting a room from her since January.
Investigators believe the remains are several months old.
Police arrested Wozniak and charged him with disposing of a body with malicious intent to avoid detection, and four counts of obtaining money by false pretense.
Deputies collected swab samples, soil samples, a laptop and an iPad. Some of the samples collected were from a freezer. Deputies also found and seized a white box with "belly" written on it, according to a search warrant.
He is being held at the Bedford Adult Detention Center without bond. Investigators do not suspect that anyone else will be charged.
A medical examiner is determining the possible cause of death.