AUSTINTOWN TWP, Ohio — Authorities have no suspects in the apparent stabbing death of a 16-year-old township girl, whose body turned up last week at a waste disposal site near the Mercer-Butler County line.
But investigators want to speak to an unknown boy, 16 or 17 years old, who had been showing up near Gina Bacher Burger's apartment in the days leading up to her disappearance.
“We're looking for this boy that we only know by the name 'James,'” Austintown police Chief Robert Gavalier said this morning. “We want to talk to him.”
Gavalier stopped short of calling the boy a “person of interest.”
Township police are heading up the investigation into Burger's death.
Workers at Tri-County Industries in Pine Township, Mercer County, discovered the girl's body in trash while loading a truck to take to a landfill.
But since she was not carrying identification and because her body could have been picked up from anywhere within the wide range of territory served by Tri-County trucks, including Youngstown, her name remained a mystery for about 24 hours.
Authorities confirmed her identity by tracking serial numbers from steel rods that were placed in her back from a surgery in Texas, where she lived until moving to Ohio in December, said state police Lt. Thomas Dubovi of the Butler barracks.
Investigators in Pennsylvania wrapped up their end of the case when it was determined Gina likely died in or near Austintown.
An autopsy in Erie determined she suffered a knife wound to her chest that punctured her lung.
That injury likely killed her but Gavalier said his department is still waiting reports from further forensic tests by the Ohio Bureau of Investigation.
The last confirmed sighting of Gina was 8 p.m. June 23 when her mother saw her leave their apartment. She was headed to a downstairs apartment to get tea bags.
When she failed to return by 10 p.m., Gina's mother and older sister, who also live there, looked for her.
Police were later notified, and Gina was entered into the national missing persons' database at 11 p.m. June 23.
Police canvassed the area but found few clues.
However, in speaking to family and apparently others at the apartment complex, they learned of “James” who might have come looking for Gina, who he had possibly become infatuated with.
Gavalier did not rule out the theory that Gina left with the boy or someone else.
“We think she probably met somebody outside the apartment complex,” he said.
“It's a strange case,” Gavalier said, “but it's one we hope we can solve soon.”