Joshua Churchwell: Late teen found in suitcase from prominent family, fled juvie program

Update: We're learning more about Joshua Oaks Churchwell, the seventeen-year-old whose body was found in a suitcase near Ruby Hill Park. (The case hasn't been ruled a homicide, since Churchwell showed no obvious signs of trauma and toxicology reports are pending.) He's been missing since January, and before winding up in a juvenile-correction program, he came of age in Burlington as part of a prominent local family.

Burlington, of course, is the small burg where the horrific murders of Charles and Marilyn Long, allegedly at the hands of their twelve-year-old son, recently took place.

According to 7News, Joshua's father is Burlington's city administrator, while his mother has provided foster care for more than 100 children over the years -- a display of largesse that won her recognition in "For All the Ways You Care," a contest sponsored by CVS pharmacies back in 2009.

More recently, though, he was in the custody of the Ridge View Youth Services Center, for reasons that can't be made public due to Churchwell's age. He wrestled for Ridge View, but during a meet at East High School in January, he ran away and hadn't been heard from since -- until some boys discovered that suitcase.

Even if Churchwell wasn't murdered, the disposition of his body was almost certainly a crime -- which is one of many reasons why the Denver Police Department continues to investigate the case. In the meantime, check out a video associated with the "For All the Ways You Care" contest, in which Churchwell is featured, followed by our previous coverage.

Update, 1:15 p.m. April 4: The Denver coroner's office has just identified the body found in a suitcase near Ruby Hill Park as Joshua Oaks Churchwell, seventeen. But there's still no word on a cause of death. In fact, the coroner notes that the autopsy may not be available for eight to twelve weeks.

Presumably, we'll learn more if Denver Police determine that the death wasn't a natural one. Until then, look below to see our earlier coverage on this strange and disturbing incident.

Original item, 7:16 a.m. April 4: The body discovered near Ruby Hill Park on Friday -- by a group of boys searching for scrap metal, who showed it off to their friends before alerting authorities -- didn't show immediate evidence of violence. Even though it was found stuffed into a suitcase.

Indeed, initial reports suggested that the victim was a child whose body was curled in the fetal position inside the partially buried suitcase (placed beneath a child's swimming pool). Now, however, the Denver Police Department suggests he was a teen at youngest and perhaps considerably older. To make matters that much more confusing, the DPD can't settle on either ethnicity or even eye color.

Here's the description released to date:

• A white or Hispanic male

• Between approximately 15 and 30 years of age

• Slight build

• Brown hair

• Dark, probably brown eyes

• Sparse moustache and goatee

• Natural teeth with no obvious fillings or crowns

• No scars or tattoos

• No obvious body piercings

In addition, the autopsy conducted by the Denver coroner's office on Saturday failed to pin down a cause of death -- all of which only compounds the difficulty of solving this case.

Anyone with information about the body is encouraged to contact the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner 303-436-7712 or the Denver Police Department 720-913-6776." Meanwhile, look below to see an interactive graphic of the area near where the victim was located; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."

View Larger Map

More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Peter Bellar to be tried again after hung jury for Douglass Singleton murder: Marijuana related?"

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