Bones identified in Ariz.

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2010

HARRISONBURG — Authorities in Arizona have identified the remains of a 31-year-old woman whose daughter was found dead in the woods in Catahoula Parish in October.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office officials confirmed Tuesday that the body found off Interstate 40 near Seligman, Ariz., in November was that of Suellen Roberts.

YCSO and Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office officials suspect Thomas Steven Sanders, 53, killed Suellen and her 12-year-old daughter Lexis Kaye Roberts.

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Lexis’s remains were found in the woods outside Harrisonburg on Oct. 8.

YCSO spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said there was a delay in identifying Suellen’s remains because of problems obtaining information from the family.

“We were stalled trying to get dental and X-Ray records from the family,” he said. “It also took some time because we had to have a forensic anthropologist examine everything closely.”

D’Evelyn said even though there was a delay in identification, the YCSO was fairly certain it was Suellen from the minute they discovered the bones.

“We were pretty confident it was her due to the clothing she was wearing when we found her,” he said.

According to a press release from YCSO Sheriff Steve Waugh, Suellen’s death was classified as “undetermined homicidal violence,” by the Yavapai County medical examiner.

The release also stated that an autopsy of Suellen revealed evidence of a gunshot wound to the head.

D’Evelyn said YCSO detectives are still investigating Suellen’s cause of death, and that any charges that could be filed on Sanders would happen further down the road.

“We haven’t filed any charges yet,” he said. “We do have the luxury of time, though. Sanders is in custody, and we are third in line to deal with the case.”

Sanders currently faces federal kidnapping charges and the CPSO is next if they file murder charges.

D’Evelyn said YCSO detectives remain in ongoing contact with CPSO officials and federal authorities handling the death investigation of Lexis.

Sanders was arrested by FBI agents at a truck stop in Gulfport Nov. 14 after a nationwide manhunt began when Lexis and Suellen went missing.

Lexis and her mother were both reported missing Sept. 5.

Sanders was indicted by a federal grand jury in Shreveport on a kidnapping charge in Lexis’ death and disappearance Nov. 18.

Sanders pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping charges in federal court in Alexandria Nov. 19.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.