BERLIN – While it appears unlikely the human remains found in rural Somerset County last week belong to a Virginia contractor who went missing in Ocean City three years ago, it now appears likely the remains could belong to a former resort resident.
Last Thursday, Maryland State Police (MSP) received information about the discovery of human remains at a vacant lot in the Manokin area of Somerset County. MSP troopers along with Maryland Natural Resources Police responded to explore the property and discovered human skeletal remains in the backyard of a vacant home. The remains appeared to be badly burned and decomposed, according to police reports.
Forensics experts at the state medical examiner’s office in Baltimore are attempting to positively identify the remains and determine a cause of death, but as of late yesterday, no positive identification had been made. However, the identification efforts thus far have concentrated on a 31-year-old woman last seen in Salisbury on Feb. 3, 2006, who is believed to have been living in Ocean City at the time of her disappearance.
Rhonda Lee Parks, a Crisfield native who had lived at different times all over the lower shore including Ocean City prior to her disappearance in February 2006, has become the focus of the investigation of the human remains found in Somerset County last week. Parks was last seen at a Shore Transit bus stop behind the District Court building in Salisbury around 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 3, 2006.
Four days later, Parks’ pocketbook and a pair of jeans she was believed to be wearing at the time of her disappearance were found along Route 13 in Westover just four miles from where the human remains were found last week. Parks, who was five months pregnant when she went missing, was a certified nursing assistant working at PRMC in Salisbury at the time of her disappearance and her last known address was on 4th Street in Ocean City.
According to court records, she had been in and out of jail on various drug-related charges in the years leading up to her disappearance. For example, in one case found from Wicomico County Circuit Court files, Parks was sentenced in October 2003 to five years in jail for a distribution of narcotics conviction of which all but about 20 months was suspended.
Parks’ address at the time of that conviction was listed as 104 4th Street in Ocean City. The case was reopened in February 2006 when Parks failed to appear for a violation of probation hearing, scheduled over a year after she was reported missing.
State forensic experts this week were comparing Parks’ dental records to the remains found in Somerset last week, but as of late yesterday, the identity of the remains was still uncertain. However, early on the investigation, Ocean City Police all but ruled out the possibility the remains could belong to Eduardo Masoller, the Virginia contractor reported missing by his family on Feb. 3, 2005, ironically the same date but one year earlier than the disappearance of Parks.
Masoller, then 52, of Springfield, Va. was reported missing by his family just three days after he and his crew arrived in the resort area for a contracting job. Ocean City Police, accompanied by family members, went to Masoller’s condominium on 68th Street and discovered a large knife on the floor as well as a substantial amount of blood evidence throughout the unit, the most significant of which was a large pool in one of the unit’s bedrooms.
Three years later, the investigation into the homicide continues. One of the prime suspects remains behind bars, serving a five-year sentence for a robbery charge associated with the crime, while the other identified suspect remains at large. For the past three years, OCPD investigators have conducted exhaustive searches of the remote area near Ocean City but have been unable to locate the body, which they believe could have been wrapped in bedding and dumped within a 30-mile radius of the resort area.
While OCPD detectives have not completely ruled out the possibility the remains found last week in Somerset could be Masoller, they do not believe it is likely given the location of the discovery. The suspects in the Masoller case were known to have left the resort and headed across the Eastern Shore to Virginia and ultimately Ohio, but their suspected path did not include a detour to Somerset County.
“Any time remains are discovered on the Eastern Shore, it raises some eyebrows,” said OCPD Detective Mike Levy. “This time, however, the location wasn’t favorable. Usually when you find remains, you can rule out certain things almost right away. There are certain procedures followed and this doesn’t appear to be our guy.”
Levy said the Masoller investigation remains active with tips on recovered remains coming in from time to time, although none have pointed to the victim.
“We’ve had a lot of calls during the investigation from all over the place- Western Maryland, Virginia, even Columbus, Ohio where one of the suspects was arrested,” he said. “We’ve called numerous mortuaries and medical examiner’s offices, but usually something doesn’t match up. The age doesn’t match or the hair color is different.”
Levy said the investigation will go on until there is some measure of closure.
“It is what it is,” he said. “If he’s out there, somebody will find him eventually.”