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Published: Thursday, April 18, 2019 @ 5:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2019 @ 9:25 AM
YELLOW SPRINGS — Family, friends and police had searched for Yellow Springs resident Lonya Clark for more than two months. Days after his body was found, law enforcement said they now are searching for Clark’s killer.
The death of Clark, 26, whom no one had seen or heard from since Jan. 13, is being investigated as a homicide, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer announced during a press conference Wednesday.
“The body had wounds to it which would indicate to us that those wounds were from a second party,” Fischer said. “We’re going now from looking for a missing person to investigating a crime.”
In December, Clark had helped clean up after a fatal shooting of a man in Yellow Springs, and family members said he had been troubled after that.
Three mushroom hunters discovered the 26-year-old Clark’s body Friday in a nature preserve on the bank of the Little Miami River, about a quarter mile downstream from the bridge on Grinnell Road near Yellow Springs.
The man who called 911 to report it, Shawn King, of Butler County, said he saw boots hanging on a wall and went to investigate. As he got closer, he saw a decomposing body at the edge of the river.
“I was really shocked to hear it was a murder,” King said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s something I was not prepared to see that day.”
Investigators are trying to determine where Lonya Clark was killed.
“We believe that the body was dumped east of where it was found and high waters from earlier this year carried that body downstream,” Fischer said. “It was snagged on some debris along side the river.”
Details from the autopsy are not being shared publicly at this time, including the preliminary finding for cause of death.
Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson knew Clark and said, “He touched a lot of lives in town.”
King said the body was dressed in a red and black flannel shirt and hooded sweatshirt underneath. He had on heavy work style pants and boots, and there was a key chain flashlight attached to the side of the pants, King said.
Several organized and thorough searches of the Glen Helen Nature Preserve and John Bryan State Park were conducted in February after Clark’s family reported him missing. Those searches included cadaver dogs from the Buckeye Search and Rescue group.
The body may not have been detected by the search dogs if the body was submerged in water, according to Carlson.
“Had the body been trapped under water or frozen under water, this would be the one scenario where the dogs wouldn’t have been able to detect it,” Carlson said.
Carlson said he knew Clark from when he was a child and he was “well-loved in the community.”
“He was a nice young man. We never had any issues with him,” Carlson said.
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Investigators are reviewing reports from the Dec. 13, 2018, death of Kenneth Livingston, who died from a gunshot wound to the head at an apartment on Corry Street in Yellow Springs. Clark struggled emotionally in the weeks following Livingston’s death because he helped clean up the scene at the apartment, according to his family.
Carlson said Clark had periodically stayed in the police department lobby prior to his disappearance.
“We were a safe place for Lonya,” Carlson said.
Carlson said officers had noticed Clark’s behavior change about two months before Livingston’s death.
“We saw him change in behavior around mid-October, and he was on our radar … Our community outreach specialist was working with him,” he said.
Police initially said Livingston’s death appeared to be from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot. Carlson said Wednesday the investigation into Livingston’s death remains open as they are awaiting results from forensic tests on DNA samples and on the functionality of the firearm.
Fischer said his investigators have copies of all the reports in Livingston’s death.
“We will go through those reports to help our investigation,” he said.
Anyone who may have information to help investigators are asked to call the sheriff’s office at (937) 562-4819.