TOMS RIVER, N.J. – A body unearthed from a shallow grave was confirmed to be that of a 16-year-old girl believed murdered by a family acquaintance, authorities said Wednesday.
The unclothed body was found Tuesday buried in a wooded area about two miles from Brittney Gregory's (search) house in central New Jersey, Ocean County prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher said. The discovery was made by officers with search dogs.
"It bothered me," said Department of Corrections Officer Joseph Nicholas, who took part in the search Tuesday though it was his day off. "That is why we were there."
Gregory, of Brick Township (search), was last heard from July 11 when she called her mother from her father's house, where she lived, and said she wanted a ride to her boyfriend's home.
Jack Fuller (search), 38, a friend of Brittney's father, has been charged with murder and is jailed on $1 million bail. Fuller has a history of drug and theft-related arrests and was released from prison in April 2003.
Investigators have not said why they believe Fuller was involved or why they had been searching the marshy wooded area since July 18. It was not immediately clear whether Fuller had an attorney.
The body was identified using fingerprints and dental records. An autopsy showed that Gregory was killed before she was buried, but did not establish a time of death, Kelaher said in a statement Wednesday. Tests were pending to determine whether the girl had been sexually assaulted, he said.
Kelaher's statement did not give a cause of death, and a spokesman for Kelaher did not immediately return phone calls seeking more information.
A decision whether to seek the death penalty against Fuller had not been made, the prosecutor said.