The search for a missing Clarion University student Saturday in a wooded area in rural central Clarion County led to the accidental discovery of an elderly couple dead in a vehicle.
Close by, about 100 feet or so away, searchers found the 21-year-old student, also deceased.
The cases are “separate incidents,” said Lt. Christopher Neal, crime unit commander for Troop C Punxsutawney, which includes Clarion County.
Foul play is not suspected in any of the deaths, according to investigators. The findings of the bodies by chance and in the same vicinity in Paint Township was a mere fluke.
“It appears just to be a bizarre coincidence,” admitted Trooper Shawn Nicewonger, the lead investigator into the death of James Whitman of Florida, who was a senior at Clarion University.
While Whitman's off-campus roommates had reported him missing over the weekend, there were no such reports for Samuel Paine, 78, and his wife, Lucille, 80, of Strattanville, Clarion County.
The investigation into the Paines' deaths is continuing, but investigators believe the couple — unbeknownst to anyone — crashed their small SUV over a hillside near Bigley Road and the Toby Creek bridge.
This is an excerpt from a larger article that appears in Tuesday's Butler Eagle. Subscribe online or in print to read the full article.