Cambria County District Attorney Jeff Lees held a press conference Monday to announce the case of former Broad Top Township resident Nancy Jo (Singer) Giles has been ruled a homicide.
Mrs. Giles’ remains were found near the James Wolfe Sculpture Trail along Roosevelt Boulevard in Johnstown May 25. Mrs. Giles had been missing for seven months prior to her remains being found.
Lees said his office was assisted by the Johnstown Police Detective Bureau and Mercyhurst University forensic anthropology unit and Forensic X where autopsies are conducted. After reviewing all the forensic data, Lees said the case has now shifted to a homicide investigation.
The cause of death, he said, is homicidal violence and he is ruling Mrs. Giles’ death a homicide. He said he could not elaborate on any specific details about the investigation because it is still ongoing and officials don’t wish to hamper anything with the Johnstown Police Department at this point and time.
Lees was asked to provide a definition of homicidal violence. He defined it as “trauma to the individual not from natural causes.”
When asked about the importance of having the forensic team come in and how crucial it was, Lees said anytime they have remains found, it’s a very slow, methodical process and sometimes it does get frustrating for the families and the public to get these answers, but officials have to make sure they are getting the forensic facts of what is being presented to them. He commended the Johnstown Police Department and its detective bureau for the cooperation they have given his office and the forensic anthropology unit from Mercyhurst as a collaborative effort and again the investigation is still ongoing and has just been shifted to a homicide investigation.
In response to a question on what impact ruling the case a homicide has on Mrs. Giles’ family as far as closure, Lees said finding the remains and positively identifying them definitely gives closure for the family and that was the start of that process. Now, Lee’s said they have a ruling as to the cause and manner of death that is one more step in the process.
When asked what the ruling of homicidal violence does for his case, Johnstown Police Department detective sergeant Cory Adams said from the time Mrs. Giles went missing, police worked the case as a homicide. Whenever someone just falls off the map entirely especially when they’re close to family members, Adams said they have to tend to think the worse because they can’t go back and turn the clock and start all over again.
From the days and weeks after Mrs. Giles went missing, Adams said police began to think it was a homicide and began to work it as such. To finally have the ruling as a homicide will make the police’s job a little easier from this point forward.
When asked if he could update the media on where the case stands, Adams said he could not provide much information other than police have made a lot of leads in the case and have certain areas they are looking at and certain people they are looking at.
Like Lees, Adams said having the forensic anthropology team come in was crucial to the investigation. Obviously, he said police don’t go out and dig up bodies or bones on a daily basis, but that is what they do and is their specialty and having that resource especially being so close, they were out with a whole team there within 24 hours and did a fantastic job being very meticulous and very slow and methodical and absolutely crucial that they were able to respond and help us with that.
Being there is a new ruling, Adams was asked if it opened new avenues in the investigation to explore such as warrants. Adams said police have executed several search warrants in the recent year Mrs. Giles was missing. He said it is nice to have the official ruling so they can actually pursue the case as a homicide if charges are filed in the future. For pretty much the past year, Adams said police have been working the case as a homicide and that its crucial but hasn’t hindered police that it wasn’t classified as a homicide.
Adams said police have pursued every tip and lead that has come in during the past year. He said nothing is too small or insignificant and if anyone has or knows anything, they are encouraged to tell police what they know.
Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.