Coroner’s office relays discovering victim’s body in Baker trial


By Meladi Brewer


GREENVILLE — Coroner relayed the uncovering of Corey Fleming’s body Monday on day four of the Dean M. Baker trial. Judge Douglas M. Rastatter presided.

After the jury attended a Jury View of the site Flemming’s body was discovered, they proceeded back to the courthouse to hear testimonies from those who worked with Baker and Fleming, as well as to hear from the coroner.

Chief Medical Investigator at the Darke County’s Coroner’s Office Joseph “Joe” VanVickle testified in court regarding all the evidence that was found during the investigation. VanVickle had first been called to the scene where the sheriff’s department found the totes, later when they found the grave, and he was present during the preservation of evidence found within the totes and bucket.

“Aug. 19, 2022, I was called by the Sheriff’ to respond just south of the village of Ithaca, as they had made a discovery in relation to a missing person report. They had found totes that raised some suspicion,” VanVickle said.

VanVickle advised that as they were pulling out the contents of the totes there was a strong odor of decomposition and insect activity. Unfortunately, after death bodies tend to start decomposing quickly, and there is an odor that is emitted that will attract flies (specifically) from miles away.

These flies will lay eggs that turn to maggots in a 24 hour period, and VanVickle testified there was evidence of this life cycle taking place within the totes. August 2022 was hot and perfect breeding ground for the insects in the bodily fluids. VanVickle testified that this heat was another reason the odor was as strong as it was.

“The odor was very noticeable. There was very little movement of air there,” VanVickle said. “Unfortunately it’s not an odor that you forget.”

The odor VanVickle testified to was also a key factor into why the Darke County Sheriff’s Department dug in the spot they would inevitably find the deceased resting in. After a black latex glove was found around some fresh, loose dirt, VanVickle probed the ground, and after he lifted his probe out of the ground, the smell of decomposition could be identified.

“I knew there was something under the dirt, and since I could visualize something such as tile, I knew that there must have been something there. Then when I removed the probe it left a hole,” VanVickle said.

A team worked together to diligently uncover the dirt a layer at a time. While exploring the dirt, they found a knife, two rings, and the victim’s body. After digging for a while, VanVickle said the odor of decomposition was prominent, and a short while later, they had discovered it was coming from a human body.

“This is a discovery of a shoe, and actually there is a foot still in it,” VanVickle said. “We are still trying to orient this position within this dig.”

VanVickle said they knew at that point in the dig where one shoe was, so they continued to try and figure out the positioning of the rest of the body. It was discovered that the body was not articulate or laid out in a position. It was “kind of more crumpled within this excavation”.

“I could tell this is not a natural position or a position that somebody should not be in,” VanVickle said.

Under the body, two rings were discovered. These rings matched the missing person report sent out for the victim. VanVickle also testified there were traces of what appeared to be cement mix around the head of the victim that matched the cement mix bag found within the bucket of evidence collected at an earlier date. He also testified the soil composition also matched the debris previously found in the totes as well.

After the state rested with the witness, Defense Attorney Patrick Mulligan advised the court that he had no questions for the witness.

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