Georgia Malinda Stone

Fayette County Sheriff’s Department detectives are investigating the cause of death for a Hilltop woman whose remains were found in a wooded area near her home in October, Fayette Sheriff Mike Fridley reported last week.

Fridley said the State Medical Examiner’s Office had identified the remains as those of Georgia Malinda Stone, a 56-year-old Sanger Road woman who was reported missing in December 2016.

Since she was reported missing, Fayette officials had continued publicizing the case and urging the public to contact authorities with information on her whereabouts.

The second weekend of October, a hunter discovered remains in a secluded, wooded area in Hilltop, said Fridley. The state medical examiner verified last week that the man had discovered Stone’s body.

“Where she was located wasn’t far from the area she went missing,” Fridley said Wednesday. “It’s kind of ironic; we’ve been looking all this time.

“It’s not closure for the family, per se, but at least we know we located her.”

Fridley said they are now searching for answers to give to Stone’s family and friends.

“We’re still waiting to find out the cause of death — being natural or if something suspicious happened,” the sheriff said. “We’re still trying to figure that out. That’s part of the investigation now.”

Fridley and Fayette Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. W.K. Willis both declined Wednesday to speculate on the cause or manner of death. Fridley said that determining both is made more difficult due to the deterioration of evidence over time.

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Stone was last seen at her Sanger Road home shortly after 8 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2016.

Police reported then that Stone had not taken her cell phone with her when she left the residence. Shortly after her disappearance, police had reported that she may have been in emotional distress when she left her house.

Fridley, who was not in office when Stone was reported missing, declined to elaborate.

“I don’t want to speculate on something,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the family to say stuff like that, when I didn’t know it, personally.”

Fridley said that he has spoken with Stone’s family and others who knew her.

“She was loved, she was liked a lot,” he said. “Really, everything I’ve heard and seen about this lady, she was well-liked, a loving person.”

He said the investigation led into Nicholas County, where Stone had connections and relationships, but declined to offer further comment on her relationships.

According to Fridley, a man who regularly hunted in the Sanger Road area climbed into his tree stand to watch for deer during the second weekend of October. When he got down from the stand, he discovered human remains and alerted authorities.

“It’s not closure yet, for the family,” Fridley said. “I pray for them, and, if there is any evidence of any type of foul play involved, we will work on it until somebody is accountable for it.”

Willis said that the investigation is at a sensitive stage. He declined to say whether he suspects Stone was a victim of foul play.

“I can’t really say, at this point,” he said. “We have a lot of unanswered questions.”

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